This was an exquisite and rare event, engaging Bach’s masterful two hour long St John’s Passion, mixed with new compositions by Joseph Twist and Brooke Shelley. The audience proved to be deeply delighted with this presentation, and rightly so.
There is a long standing debate about the relationship of religion and Bach, specifically his musical composition. This issue comes to the fore with his St John’s Passion, especially as presented by the Sydney Philharmonia Chamber Singers. The inclusion of new works, in homage to Bach and cut into the original text, as well as the faithful resonant rendition of Bach’s original composition, encourage interpretation that while Bach was a faithful believer in his Lutheran heritage, his creative works cannot be too readily circumscribed in form, ideas or motivation to this same heritage. Bach’s music supplements and indeed transforms traditions of liturgy and religious music, and invites close attention and wonder by audiences at the time of first performance at Leipzig in 1724, as much as Chatswood Sydney in 2021.
Different music types are used to embrace different modalities of faith. In recitation it faithfully reproduces the story of Christ’s conviction crucifixion and resurrection, in terms of the direct speech of participants of the event. The result is a characteristically Protestant manner to the main part of the work – the story is personalised and owned realistically by individual agents of the narratives, covered by accomplished voices of Richard Butler (Evangelist) and Andrew O’Connor (Christ). Continue reading SYDNEY PHILHARMONIA CHOIRS : ST JOHN PASSION REIMAGINED : TRANSCENDANT