J.S. Bach

How does a lifelong interest in the choral works of J.S. Bach maintain a luster that continues to this day? World-renowned German conductor, scholar, and teacher Helmuth Rilling gives WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston some insight.

Widely regarded as one of the masterpieces of classical sacred music, the St. Matthew Passion is an oratorio written by Johann Sebastian Bach in 1727 for solo voices, double choir and double orchestra, with libretto by Picander (Christian Friedrich Henrici). It sets chapters 26 and 27 of the Gospel of Matthew (in the German translation of Martin Luther) to music, with interspersed chorales and arias.

J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion is a monumental oratorio that fell into obscurity for decades after Bach's death in 1750. Composer Felix Mendelssohn's production of the work in 1829 helped spark the modern Bach revival. Susan Lewis considers Bach’s life and work.

J.S. Bach was born more than three centuries ago, yet contemporary musicians continue to mine riches from his music. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, award-winning violinist Gil Shaham finds Bach connections in everything he plays.

The St. Matthew Passion is revered today as one of the great masterpieces of the choral repertoire. But along with much of Bach’s vast output, it sank into obscurity in the decades following his death in 1750.

At the age of 13, Felix Mendelssohn was given a copy of Bach’s Passion as a Christmas gift. He fell in love with it. Seven years later in 1829, he presented a performance of the work in his own arrangement, changing some orchestration and making cuts to several sections.

Yannick Nezet-Seguin conducts one of the supreme monuments in Western music, and the work that initiated the great rediscovery of Bach’s music when the 20-year-old Felix Mendelssohn conducted it in Berlin in 1829 – the St. Matthew Passion.

Musicians have struggled to determine what J.S. Bach sounded like in his own time for decades. As The Philadelphia Inquirer's David Patrick Stearns reports, The Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia turned back the clock in a different direction on February 8th at Girard College, determining what Bach sounded like in the time of...Mendelssohn.

In recent years, J. S. Bach's music has been embraced by period performers, and played less frequently by big symphony orchestras. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, The Philadelphia Orchestra takes a very modern - yet historical - approach to his music in WRTI's Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcast on Sunday, February 22 at 1 pm.

The broadcast also features Bach’s Piano Concerto No. 1, and music of Strauss and Mahler.

J.S. Bach’s second-surviving son, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788), was a musical force in his own right. His fame, at least after the mid-1700s, overshadowed that of his now-legendary father. This year, six German cities with ties to C.P.E.’s musical footprint in Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt (Oder), Leipzig, Potsdam, and Weimar are leading a celebration of the 300th anniversary of his birth.   

Join WRTI on Good Friday at noon, for a complete performance of Johann Sebastian Bach's St. John Passion, a work written for Good Friday Vespers service of 1724 in Leipzig. This performance was recorded in concert on Good Friday in 2013 in the Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center.

Valentin Radu conducts his Ama Deus Ensemble and features soprano Megan Monaghan, alto Jody Kidwell, tenor Kenneth Garner, and bass-baritone Kevin Deas, and The Philadelphia Boys Choir. This performance is sung in English.