Los Angeles Concert Feature: BACH’S ST. JOHN PASSION – Los Angeles Master Chorale (Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles)

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by Tony Frankel on March 28, 2012

in Theater-Los Angeles


Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) wrote the St. John Passion for the Good Friday Service in Leipzig, Germany in 1724, just 3 months into his new job as “Cantor” of Leipzig.  The passion, a form which traces its origins to the 4th Century AD, is the story of the trial, torture, crucifixion and death of Christ.  Bach is believed to have written four passions, one for each of the gospels, but only two remain: St. John and St. Matthew.  While the St. Matthew Passion is considered the most architecturally complex and layered of Bach’s choral works, the St. John is thought to be the boldest, most dramatic, and most theatrical. It is also the closest that Bach ever came to writing an opera and is considered one of the greatest masterworks of all time.

This weekend, fans of theater, opera and/or classical music will have a chance to be filled with inspiring passion as the Los Angeles Master Chorale, conducted by Grant Gershon, presents the Walt Disney Concert Hall debut of Bach’s oratorio St. John Passion in two back-to-back historically informed performances with Musica Angelica Baroque Orchestra, performing on period instruments.

The story is narrated by a character called the “Evangelist” (Chorale member Pablo Corá), a stand-in for the apostle John, and the text of his narration is taken directly from John’s gospel.  Unlike the St. Matthew Passion, here Jesus himself is a character, as is Pontius Pilate.  The chorus at times portrays the crowd, and at other times plays a group of parishioners responding to the story as it is told to them.

These concerts complete the Chorale’s multi-season trilogy of historically informed performances with the nation’s foremost Baroque ensemble of Bach’s three major choral works, which also includes the B Minor Mass, presented by the chorus in March 2008, and St. Matthew Passion, performed by the Chorale in March 2010.  More vivid, dramatically intense and unbridled than its later counterparts, St. John Passion is scored for an intimate ensemble of soloists, four-part choir and instrumentalists ranging from lute and viola da gamba to oboe, strings and basso continuo.  40 core singers from the Chorale comprise the choir for this highly-anticipated performance.

Most playgoers see theater to be moved, touched and inspired.  While the attendance of many plays and musicals is to be commended, no particular experience is guaranteed.  Based on the Chorale’s proficiency and Bach’s masterpiece, isn’t it wonderful to know that you are guaranteed to be filled with passion?

Bach’s St. John Passion
LA Master Chorale at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles
plays on Saturday, March 31 at 8 pm & Sunday, April 1, 2012 at 7 pm
for tickets call (213) 972-7282, or visit www.lamc.org

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