Magazine article Opera Canada

St. John Passion

Magazine article Opera Canada

St. John Passion

Article excerpt

J. S. Bach

Atma: ACD 22611

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The St. John Passion was the first major church work J. S. Bach composed for Leipzig after he settled there as Cantor in the spring of 1723.

As a Lutheran church musician most of his life, Bach never composed an opera, but the St. John Passion is about as close as he came. Where the later St. Matthew Passion is more reflective and contemplative, dealing with the impact of the crucifixion, the earlier work is the more dramatic. It is not as comforting and consoling, turning more to the grisly events themselves.

This recent recording, featuring two of Montreal's finest early-music ensembles, manages to balance Bach's dramatic elements with the mood of resigned acceptance. The choir, Les Voix Baroques, is three-to-a-part, and features some of Canada's top Baroque singers, including sopranos Shannon Mercer and Agnes Zsigovics, tenor Lawrence Wiliford and counter-tenor (and Artistic Director) Matthew White. The vocal solos are taken from within the choir. German. tenor Jan Kobow, renowned in Europe for his historically informed Bach performances, is the Evangelist. He's dramatic and emotional as the storyteller, but in a restrained, unsentimental style that is captivating. Kobow's telling of Peter's denial in Part I and Pilate's scourging of Jesus in Part II are both moving and technically accurate.

The Arion Orchestre Baroque, Montreal's only period-instrument orchestra, features a who's who of Quebec period instrumentalists and is directed from the organ by the talented keyboard player and German emigre, Alexander Weimann . …

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