Standing as one of the pillars of Western music, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion is at once monumental and intimate, deeply sorrowful and powerful. Nearly three hundred years after it was first heard in St. Thomas’ Church in Leipzig, Germany, Bach’s Passion continues to move audiences emotionally and spiritually.
Johann Sebastian Bach wrote his St. Matthew Passion for a single purpose: to present the Passion story in music at Good Friday service.
With gripping drama, Bach retells the compelling story of the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus. He divided the music into two parts. Highlights of the first part include the last supper and the betrayal and arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. In the second part, the music turns softer and more somber–signaling the inevitability of the story–as it depicts the trial, crucifixion and burial of Jesus. The Passion ends with darkly textured chorus “In tears of grief”. Bach could leave his parishioners in a sorrowful mood, knowing that they’d be celebrating Christ’s resurrection in just a few days.
Bach built his Passion from choruses both small and large, and arias for specific characters such as Jesus, Judas, Peter and Pontius Pilate. The Evangelist, a role for tenor voice is the principal storyteller, moving the drama along through a kind of half sung, half spoken recitative. Supporting Bach’s massive structure are three grand choruses–at the beginning, middle and end–standing as tall columns, holding up the surrounding music. Serious composers consider St. Matthew Passion a core component of music and most speak to the influence the complicated piece has had on them.
St. Matthew Passion is monumental in scope, but can be presented with less performers. However, as designed by Bach, this version usually consists of two full orchestras, two choirs, and minimum of 6 soloists.
The Passion begins with an immense wave of sound. The opening chorus constructed by the interlocking double choir with a children’s chorus soaring over the top – building with intensity and sweeping the listener into the drama instantly.
In addition to the seven soloists, a double orchestra and a double choir, we will welcome 36 very talented members of the the Tour Choir from Colorado Children’s Chorale in this massive undertaking. The Colorado Children’s Chorale annually trains 500 members between the ages of 7 and 14 from all ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds representing more than 180 schools in the Denver Metro area and beyond.
In 2013, we presented our very first St. Matthew Passion to our audiences as part of our second season, and I am more than thrilled to share this incredible masterpiece again as our season closer with more than 100 musicians participating.
The audience will also have an opportunity to hear and learn about the work in our pre-concert discussion led by Dr. Dawn Grape, musicologist from Colorado State University, one hour before each performance.
Please join us as we conclude our season with Bach’s St. Matthew Passion; one of the greatest gifts to mankind. There is a saying, “Mozart brings heaven to us, and Bach TAKES us to heaven”. I assure you that it will be a life-changing experience!