Bach: Saint Matthew Passion
A summit in Bach’s creation, the Saint Matthew Passion was probably created on Holy Friday 1727 in Saint Thomas of Leipzig, and has haunted the history of music for almost three centuries. Performed several times during Bach’s lifetime, it was at the origin of Bach’s rediscovery in the 19th century. Practically a hundred years after its creation, Felix Mendelssohn performed it in Berlin, placing Bach again at the forefront of German musical heritage, where he has been ever since.
Based on Saint Matthew’s gospel, the librettist Picander composed 28 scenes. Among these scenes and the gospel passages, Bach introduced twelve harmonised chorales and the grand chorale which closes the first part.
The presence of a double choir is a distinctive element of this passion; it reinforces the dramatic power of the work, where action scenes include the main characters of the Passion but also the crowd, both witness and actor of the drama unfolding. The result cannot be compared to other German passions of the time, which are much more moderate. Bach is closer here to a grand oratorio by Handel. This composition is a summit of Protestant music and baroque rhetoric, with strong emphasis on dramatic intensity.
To magnify this splendid composition, Michael Hofstetter conducts the famous Tölzer Knabenchor, with the children singing both the high arias and the choral parts as at the time of Bach, for a deeply moving interpretation.
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Saint Matthew Passion