The fascination of Johann Sebastian Bach's compositions is as strong as ever: his Passions count among the best known works of sacred music. Alternating between the St John and St Matthew Passions, Thomanerchor Leipzig (St Thomas's Boys Choir Leipzig) every year performs one of Bach's Passions on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday at St Thomas Leipzig, the very church at which Bach himself was once cantor.
Exceptional soloists and the internationally acclaimed Gewandhausorchester
(Gewandhaus Orchestra) have joined forces for this recording of the St John Passion, which is sure to reach the hearts of its listeners: the musical setting is closely modelled on the biblical text and allows the listener to experience Christ's Passion through sound. The artists follow the original conception of Bach's work performed together with St Thomas's Boys Choir
at St Thomas Leipzig on Good Friday. The unique charisma, clarity, and precision of Georg Christoph Biller, the current cantor at St Thomas, are unmistakable on this disc.
The present disc features the rarely performed, final version of the St John Passion of 1749 in a CD-recording with St Thomas's Boys Choir for the first time. In contrast to the St Matthew Passion, the St John Passion has never had an authoritative version. The piece was reworked most extensively for the occasion of its renewed performance on Good Friday 1725. Since three clearly distinguished performance versions (1724, 1725, and 1732) were already in existence, Bach attempted to cast the Passion into a final form in the years around 1739. After reworking and writing down 21 pages of the score, however, Bach gave up on this endeavour, and let one of his copyists finish the job. The Passion was not performed again until 4 April 1749, one year before Bach's death. On this occasion, Bach himself made additional changes to the text, the music, and the instrumentation.