In a rare collision of programming choices, Sydney choral music fans will be treated to no less than three of J S Bach’s brilliant choral works this Easter.
Kicking off the monumental triumvirate on Sunday April 2, the Choir of Christ Church St Laurence performs the Mass in B minor, BWV 232. Written for 5-part chorus with orchestra and soloists. This setting of the Latin Mass was completed in 1749, the year before Bach’s death. It was his last finished work.
Dr Neil McEwan conducts the Choir of Christ St Laurence, St Laurence Baroque Orchestra and Australian Baroque Brass with sopranos Josie Ryan and Narelle Yeo, alto Nyssa Milligan, tenor Richard Butler and bass Craig Everingham. The Mass in B minor is something of a curiosity as a Catholic mass set by a devout Lutheran. As well, its movements are a compilation of parts reprised from other works and written piecemeal over many years.
The following weekend, Friday April 7, the Choir of St James’ is joined by the BachBand@StJames and directed by Warren Trevelyan-Jones in a performance of the St John Passion BWV 245, another of Bach’s Good Friday offerings which premiered in Leipzig in 1723. It is the City Recital Hall debut for this ensemble as well as the performance debut of the specialist BachBand@StJames. Joining the choir are the choristers of Santa Sabina College and SHORE. The soloists line-up comprises tenor Richard Butler as the Evangelist, mezzo-soprano Sally-Anne Russell, soprano Amy Moore and bass-baritone Christopher Richardson.
Finally, on Easter Saturday, April 15, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and the Sydney Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Brett Weymark will perform the St Matthew Passion, BWV 244, in the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House. The St Matthew Passion, BWV 244, is Bach’s setting of the Passion of Christ from the Gospel of St Matthew with interpolations by Picander. The soloists include Robert Macfarlane as the Evangelist, Christopher Richardson as Christus with soprano Celeste Lazarenko, mezzo-soprano Sally-Anne Russell, tenor Jonathan Abernethy tenor and baritone David Greco.
Premiering at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig on Good Friday, 1727, the St Matthew Passion is considered to be the most complex of Bach’s choral works and inexplicably, was forgotten after his death in 1750 until it was revived by Mendelssohn in Berlin in 1829.
Take the Bach challenge – immerse yourself and go to all three performances. They won’t come around again in a hurry.