Bach’s St John Passon shows the composer’s towering imagination at its most intensely dramatic, moving and vivid. Christ’s trial and death are retold by soloists acting as participants in the event but also meditating upon it in reflective arias; the choir’s role alters from rowdy mob baying for crucifixion to that of a congregation singing quiet, redemptive chorales. Criticised in its day for being too operatic, the work is now revered for its originality, for its faith and above all for its incomparable beauty of musical thought. The new reading is a testament to the vitality of the choral tradition: all soloists are former or current members of New College Choir. It also presents a new level of authenticity, not only with period instruments but also with boys’ voices as Bach would have used at St Thomas in Leipzig.
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