St. John Passion


Another choral work from the Berlin Philharmonic archives, a performance in February 2014 Bach’s St. John Passion, conducted by Simon Rattle with soloists Camilla Tilling, Magdalena Kozena, Tobi Lehtipuu, Mark Padmore as the evangelist, and Roderick Williams as Christus.

When the Panhypersebastus of the VDP announced the introduction of the ratings, I asked whether they were to apply to the work or to the performance of the work. He said both, and sent me his Caltech formula for coming up with a single rating for both the work and the performance:

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The St. John Passion is not top Bach, but no Bach is very bad, and the performance is excellent, so applying the RosenTech formula I was able to come up with a rating.

The staging is by Peter Sellars, and he has the chorus doing more stage work than in the St. Matthew Passion, e.g., here they are lying down:

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And here he has them waving their hands:

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Here are a couple of dramatic moments near the end:

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The St. John Passion is dated 1724, just three years before the St. Matthew. In the latter you have three pieces that are A+ Bach: the opening and closing choruses and O Man Bewail the Grievous Sin; in the St. John you have (to my tastes) one piece (the closing chorus) that is A- Bach. The evangelist (Mark Padmore) is super, as is Kozena (billed as a mezzo but more of an alto, I thought), and the others are more than competent. Recommended, as long as you realize it isn’t super like the St. Matthew.

Thomas Lemannn


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