We shall continue this evening with something we began last weekend. We celebrated the anniversary of the birthday of the great German composer Johann Sebastian Bach this past March 21st, and while I often like to combine my observances of Bach’s birthday and Easter, such a thing is especially easy to do this year as the two occasions fall quite close together. Bach wrote a number of pieces for the celebration of Easter in the Lutheran liturgical calendar, and some of these pieces rank among his most brilliant masterpieces. We’re going to hear one such piece this evening, his St. Matthew’s Passion. St. Matthew Passion was first performed on Good Friday, April 11, 1727. He revised and performed it again in 1736, and then again in 1742. It received further revision between 1733 and 1746, during a late-life period during which Bach was making revisions to his major works. This work was also a major part of the renaissance in the public awareness of Bach’s catalog, when Felix Mendelssohn conducted a revised version of the work in Berlin in 1829. It has since become a part of the Easter Week tradition in many churches around the world, and in some instances the work has been staged, usually with performers wearing street clothes, singing their parts from memory. A notable production was staged by Peter Sellars in 2010.
Tonight’s recording is a lovely rendition by the Bach Collegium Japan. The soloists are Nancy Argenta, Robin Blaze, Gerd Türk, Makoto Sakurada, Peter Kooij, Chiyuki Urano. The recording March 1999 at Kobe Shoin University, Japan. The ensemble is directed by Masaaki Suzuki