J.S. Bach

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 and the musical footprint of this German genius reaches far beyond his native Weimar.

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.

Credit: Steph Mackinnon

What kind of music would speak to Bach today? Cellist Matt Haimovitz—who has been performing works by Bach in concert halls and clubs for the last three decades—asked composers to respond to the preludes from Bach’s cello suites. WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports.

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.


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.

What Did Bach Sound Like In The Time of Mendelssohn?

Mar 30, 2015

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.

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