St. Matthew Passion, the summit of Bach’s work was probably created on Good Friday.
Year 1727 in St Thomas in Leipzig has haunted the history of music for almost three centuries. Performed several times in Bach’s lifetime, it was the spearhead for the rediscovery of Bach in the 19th century. Almost a hundred years after its creation, Felix Mendelssohn played a version in Berlin, placing Bach again in the first ranks of German musical heritage, where he has remained ever since.
Based on Saint Matthew’s account, which is much more developed than St John’s, the librettist Picander composed 28 madrigal scenes. Among them and the gospel parts, Bach introduced twelve harmonized chorales with hymns inserted in numbers 1 and 25 and the grand chorale ending the first part.
The presence of a double choir is one of the main distinctive elements of this passion. This is what reinforces the dramatic power of the work, with action scenes with the main protagonists of the Passion and also the crowd, both witness and player of the drama. The result obtained by Bach cannot be compared to other German passions of the time, which are much more measured and conventional. We are here closer to a grand biblical oratorio, as composed by Handel at the same time in England, with alternating arias and chorales, both describing and commenting the events of the passion and the religious feelings it inspired: indignation, piety, grief. We are at the summit of baroque rhetoric; the urgency of the drama is more perceptible than ever.
The choir and the orchestra serve Bach’s music with fervor and will create an intense moment of strength and purity.
Julian Prégardien, evangelist
Stéphane Degout, Jesus & bass I
Sabine Devieilhe, soprano I
Maïlys de Villoutreys, soprano II
Damien Guillon, alto I
Lucile Richardot, alto II
Samuel Boden, tenor I
Thomas Hobbs, tenor II
Christian Immler, bass II
Raphaël Pichon, conductor