St Matthew Passion
J S Bach
Tuesday 7 April 2009 at 7.00 p.m.
with the Baroque Ensemble
Nicolette Moonen and Bethan Morgan
Harpsichord: Philip Robinson
Cello and Viola da gamba: Mark Hacking
Director: Richard Roddis
Richard Roddis – Evangelist
Mario Solimene - Christus
Kate Semmens – soprano
Aric Prentice – counter-tenor
Benedict Hymas - tenor
Jeremy Leaman – bass
The work was performed at Baroque pitch. It was sung in German with English surtitles. A new translation of the choruses, chorales and arias was made for this purpose by Michael Ockenden. This English translation of the text is available if you click here.
The St. Matthew Passion is written for solo voices, double choir and double orchestra. It sets chapters 26 and 27 of the Gospel of Matthew to music, with interspersed chorales and arias.
At the time of composing the St Matthew Passion, Bach was at the height of his creative powers. He provided the score with such a treasure of truly Baroque ideas and such musical mastery that it's not easy to take it all in. His music simply overpowers.
This work recounts the story of the capture and crucifixion of Christ, using the words of the Holy Scriptures, often interrupted by the poetic interjections of the chorus – dramatic, lyrical and contemplative. The emotional variety and intensity are correspondingly greater. Because of the magnitude of this work , JS Bach's St Matthew Passion is a unique depiction of the suffering and death of Christ.
Grahame Whitehead, in the Nottingham Evening Post, wrote:
RICHARD Roddis directed Sinfonia Chorale and the Baroque Ensemble in a performance of Bach's St Matthew Passion which was perfectly matched to its setting, the Minster, on an evening in Holy Week.
Bach's fusion of dramatic narrative with personal spiritual reflection was recreated with a simple directness which always left space for quiet reflection. English surtitles projected onto a large screen communicated the meaning of the German texts well.
Roddis brought a strong sense of drama and pace to his role as the Evangelist, as well as exemplary clarity; Mario Solimene as Christus had both presence and vocal stature.
There was some fine singing, too, by soloists Kate Semmens, Benedict Hymas, Jeremy Leaman and counter-tenor Aric Prentice.
The choir's well-balanced, disciplined sound was equally at home in the chorale melodies and in the dramatic interjections which punctuate the narrative, and was complemented by the excellent playing of the Baroque Ensemble.