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JS Bach's St John Passion | St Albans Bach Choir

Saturday March 17, 2018 at 19:30
The Cathedral and Abbey Church of Saint Alban, St Albans
£30, £25, £18, £12; children under 16 and students £12; wheelchair £25, with carer going free
Phone for tickets: 01727 890290
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Tickets "at the door" - until sold out
  1. St John Passion BWV 245 - Johann Sebastian Bach

The St John Passion was the first of the two great Passion settings by JS Bach, written and performed soon after he was appointed Kapellmeister to the churches in Leipzig. Originally he had intended it to be sung in the Thomaskirche, but the Council (with whom Bach was to have a difficult relationship) altered the venue to the Nikolaikirche at short notice. It was performed on Good Friday 1724, originally in two parts, with a sermon in between. For better or for worse, St Albans Bach Choir’s current performance will concentrate solely on the music!

The text is taken from chapters 18 and 19 of the Lutheran translation of St John’s Gospel. In the, by then, well established tradition of the German Passion, a tenor soloist sings the part of the Evangelist, telling the story, and is backed up by the choir and other soloists playing the various characters of the drama. Soloists reflect in their arias on the spiritual message told by the narrative. This is summed up in chorales, being Lutheran hymns in which the Leipzig congregation may well have joined (another tradition no longer to be repeated).

This was not Bach’s first Passion setting: he wrote one while at the court of Weimar, but this is now lost. It may be that he re-used some of that music in the St John Passion. He continued to revise the work, adding new numbers in 1725, 1732 and 1749. The work has been described as more extravagant than its successor, the St Matthew Passion, with an expressive immediacy, at times more unbridled and less 'finished'. However, Bach himself considered the earlier work to be supremely important. Perhaps the biggest joy of the St John Passion is that, for all the ferocity and sorrow of the Good Friday story, it is a truly optimistic work, anticipating the resurrection with music suffused with light and hope.

The Passion forms a staple part of St Albans Bach Choir’s repertoire, having last been performed in 2011. While no longer being intended for worship on Good Friday, it will form an important part of preparation for Holy Week and Easter.

The Cathedral and Abbey Church of Saint Alban
Sumpter Yard
St Albans
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