Saturday 18th March 2023 6:00pm Southwark Cathedral, London SE1
JS Bach's first version of his St John Passion was performed on Good Friday 1724 in Leipzig. It took another twenty-five years of tinkering and tweaking until the final version that is used widely today was published, albeit Bach never actually heard this reworking performed during his lifetime. Although the use of the word 'Passion' in today's language is associated often with strong emotions, in the case of the choral world its derivation is more aligned with the Latin patoir meaning to endure, suffer, bear. The St John Passion, consequently, refers specifically to the story of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ and John's interpretation of it in his Gospel, which is notably different in its account to that of the other three gospel writers.
Bach's work is split into five sections - The Arrest, The Denial, The Court Hearing, The Crucifixion and the Burial. As with most examples of this type of music, the principal narrator is the Evangelist (tenor) with most of the other main characters being sung by one or more bass soloists, and the priests, soldiers and other people being taken by the chorus. Near enough all of the text is from St John's Gospel, although there is the occasional line taken from those of St Matthew and St Mark in places.
The St John Passion provides the baroque filling of the triptych of the passion music 'sandwich' being performed this season, with works by contemporary composers being the wrapping of bread around the outside. Details of the summer concert can be found by clicking here.
London Bridge, London, London SE1 9DA