Bach’s “St. John Passion”
Recital Hall, Ann E. Pitzer Center
Kyle Stegall, tenor (evangelist)
Elizabeth Nitzan, soprano
Michelle Lajeunesse, alto
Michael Jankoskey, tenor
Daniel Yoder, bass (Pontius Pilate)
Matilda Hofman, conductor
Early Music and Baroque Ensembles of UC Davis with guests—
Glenda Bates and Lot Demeyer, oboe
Thomas Hill, bassoon | Farley Pearce, violone
Although originally performed in a church setting during Easter celebrations, Bach’s Passions are almost operatic in nature. The Easter story is dramatically presented using the Gospel of St. John (rather than, say, Matthew), by featuring a chorus (which play the role of the crowd, soldiers, or disciples), as well as singers that play the roles of Evangelist (narrator), Jesus, Peter, a maid and servant.
It is the Passions of J. S. Bach—not the Toccata in D Minor or Brandenburg Concertos—that were vital to bringing Bach to modern audiences. Had Mendelssohn not performed in the St. Matthew Passion in 1829, it is possible Bach would not be a household name as it is today. Both the St. John and St. Matthew Passions are exemplary of Bach’s best work, from stunning chorales to virtuosic instrumental work.