Thursday, 27 March 2008

84. Johann Sebastian Bach - St. John Passion (1724)


Title: Christmas Oratorio- St. Matthew Passion - St. John Passion - Mass in B Minor
Performer: Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Andreas Schmidt, English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir
Director: John Eliot Gardiner
Year: 1986
Length: 2 hours


You put this on, and for the opening 10 minutes alone you know you are going to have to give it a 9 or a 10 depending on what comes after. And so it is, this is probably the most spectacular opening of any work on the list until now. It is simply amazing instrumental work with a chorus that really gives you a sense that God is speaking to you right now, and he is slightly miffed.

Then you go on through the album, and each time a chorus appears that frisson of excitement comes back, not as strongly, but strongly enough. Unfortunately this will not be a 10, because recitatives do drag on and there is only so much I can hear of people talking in German without getting a bit bored.

Fortunately, just as you are about to get bored of the whole thing, a beautiful Aria comes on, or another bombastic choir and you rethink the whole thing. Bach makes some of the most original and beautiful uses of choirs here, to the point where he has an aria with a choir singing quietly at the back, much behind the soloist, and I had not heard anything similar on this list before. Amazing work, pity about the recitatives... but he needed to have them.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

The text for the body of the work is taken from the Gospel of John chapters 18 and 19. Bach used Martin Luther's translation of the Bible with only slight modifications. The text for the opening prayer Herr, unser Herrscher, dessen Ruhm as well as the arias, chorales and the penultimate chorus Ruht wohl, ihr heiligen Gebeine each come from various other sources. It is interesting to note also that two recitative passages, dealing with Peter crying after his betrayal and the temple veil ripped during the crucification are not contained within the Gosple of John, but of Matthew. These interpolated passasges were later eliminated.


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