St John Passion, NSO

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National Symphony Orchestra
David Hill, conductor
James Gilchrist, Evangelist
Fflur Wyn, soprano
James Hall, countertenor
Dean Power, tenor
Gareth Brynmor John, Christus (replacing Bernard Hansky)
Rory Dunne, Pilate
National Symphony Chorus

Bach St. John Passion

Bach’s St John Passion is one of the most moving, sublime and towering creations in all music: an intensely dramatic, devotional masterpiece for all faiths and none. A stellar line-up guarantees an experience to remember with one of the great Evangelists of our times, James Gilchrist, partnered by the expressive voices of Fflur Wyn, James Hall and Dean Power, Bernhard Hansky and Rory Dunne, Pilate. Choral conductor extraordinaire David Hill leads the National Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in one of the greatest, most profound pinnacles of Western art. Composed in 1724 for the Good Friday service at Leipzig’s St Nicholas Church – where Bach had been installed the year before as director of music – the St John Passion is the oldest of the composer’s two surviving Passions (the other, the monumental St Matthew Passion). Written for soloists, chorus and orchestra, it was intended as a ‘sermon in music’. It describes the events of the last days of Christ’s life – from the Last Supper until his Crucifixion and burial – as recounted in St John’s Gospel. In addition, verses from Lutheran hymns are interpolated to embellish and strengthen the narrative. A work of absolute religious conviction, it carries itself with an operatic sense of sweep and scale yet never loses sight of key characters at the heart of the seminal story – the Evangelist (who serves as narrator), Jesus, the apostle Peter and Pontius Pilate – with the Chorus operating both within scenes as characters and outside to offer a commentary of its own. The music is rich and resonant, the small conventional orchestral forces augmented by lute, viola d’amore and viola da gamba – all instruments that were already considered old-fashioned in Bach’s time – to subtly ink in a sense of antiquity.

Categories: Performances