St. Matthew Passion

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.

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.

You're in a for a treat this Sunday, April 28th at 2 pm! That's when our Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert Broadcast will feature a first for the ensemble:  It's the first time in the Orchestra's distinguished history that they performed the complete, uncut St. Matthew Passion, in two parts, with five soloists, the Westminster Symphonic Choir, and American Boychoir, all under the direction of Yannick Nezet-Seguin.  

This exciting, historical first was performed at the end of March, during the Easter period.

Listen to our annual broadcast of Johann Sebastian Bach's St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244 on Good Friday, March 29th, a few minutes after 12 noon.

The recording features Karl Richter conducting the Munich Bach Orchestra, Munich Bach Choir, and Regensburg Cathedral Choir. Edith Mathis (Soprano), Dame Janet Baker (Mezzo Soprano), Peter Schreier (Tenor), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Baritone), and Matti Salminen (Bass).

Happy Easter from WRTI!

Watch and Listen: J. S. Bach's St Matthew Passion

Mar 21, 2013

So beautiful! Bach's St Matthew Passion BWV 244 is performed here under the baton of Enoch Zu Guttenberg, founder of the prestigious Neabeuern Choral Society. Vocalists include: Jard Van Nes, Hermann Prey, Claes-Hakan Ahnsjo, Margaret Marshall, and Aldo Baldin. Listen to the entire St. Matthew Passion on WRTI on Good Friday, March 29th at 12 noon, and in a Philadelphia Orchestra live, concert recording on Sunday, April 28th.

Facing Bach's St. Matthew Passion, I often feel a combination of anticipation and dread. It's a great work, profound in its humanity and spirituality, with sublimely beautiful music. But it's a long haul, and if it's not a good performance, well, I'm stuck. And it can be not-good in various ways: either too solemnly pious or too much an exercise in musical style rather than emotional drama. A new DVD recorded in 2010 at Berlin's great concert hall, the Philharmonie, would be of major interest under any circumstances.