7/29/2015

St. John's Passion by J.S.Bach

In this past week end, the Carmel Bach Festival was held in the city of Carmel, a renowned resort near to the Bay Area. A month ago, I was wondering if I could have been there together with a good friend of mine, Bob W6CYX, who had introduced about that event through a book "Carmel Impresarios". I have written about this well written book on the history of Carmel and the festival in this blog before. Unfortunately, we had too little time to decide to fly to the West Coast this time. Hearing from Bob how much he was looking forward the concert there, I decided spending the same week end listening to St. John's Passion by Bach, the very same piece they were going to play at the festival this summer.

I have had the CD of this piece by Munchen Bach Orchestra by K. Richter, which has already established their fame for the past decades. Again, Bob has sent me a url  linked to the performance by Bach Collegium Japan conducted by M. Suzuki shown below. It is a really modern ensemble with smaller orchestra and choir based on the authentic performance. I have known this group before, which has earned a good reputation among Bach lovers world wide. Clear cut as well as light touch phrasing. Transparency in sound is thanks to the size of ensemble as well as to the authentic playing technique. Through its performace ability, and possibly, the conductor's understanding of this piece, the message of this music urges us to be with Bach. It sure brings us to thinking what Jesus and his death at Golgotha means to us.

John's Evangel which this music was based on seems unique compared with the other Evangels. This was established solely in the end of the 1st century in order to advocate the evangelism of Christianity toward the outer world not localized to the Judah area. The theme concerns about what Jesus and his death means to us rather than the episodes of his life. The author of this Evangel seems to have described it through two aspects of our lives. One is the problem of belief related through ths story of the denial and betray to Jesus by Peter. The other is a political issue. It might be a problem regarding what the right and earnest party could behave against Jesus.
Through these two aspects of life, this music urges us to reflect ourselves and eventually to reach our helplessness.

I am not a Christian. I am on the gate of church. Maybe, I will remain there throughout my life. But this music makes me consider where I am and where I should head to. Honestly, this music has been too difficult and tough to be immersed in. The perpetuating motif by the strings in the 1st music surely expresses our anxiety and worry in lives. It could not be pleasant to confront such a reality of ourselves. I have learned, however, only through facing to the reality, we could understand what Jesus and his death meant to us. It was another great experience for me to have listened to this music seriously.

8 comments:

  1. Suzuki is a great and under-estimated harpsichordist as well as being a fine conductor. I have his recording of the Goldberg Variations.
    Thanks for the post - I must listen to St. John Passion again now.

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    1. He was playing the harpsichord for the beginning chord of basso continuo while conducting. I haven't known of his performance as harpsichordist. It may deserve listening to his performace. It was also interesting to learn how and when the Evangels have been written. John's seems to be quite unique from that standpoint. There are so many things to learn while our life span is limited. Thanks for the comment.
      Shin

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  3. Shin

    Nothing to do with St John. There is a good series of Bach concerts here starting next month, for which I have booked tickets for my son and I. So if you are feeling like a trip to 9V???

    http://preview.sistic.com.sg/events/essoch230815

    John

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    1. John,

      I envy you going for a concert with your son. Yes, I would go there and enjoy the concert together with you. It will take me some time to go and see Merlion. I am a kept man cooking everyday hi.

      The concert for three violins sounded new to me. It sounds like Vivaldi. Isn't it an arrangement?

      Shin

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  4. Shin
    It appears in the standard BWV catalogue as 1064. Actually I am unfamiliar with it as well.
    John

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  5. http://sistic.com.sg/events/ssov270815

    Another concert not to be missed.

    What a coincidence!

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  6. http://sistic.com.sg/events/ssov270815

    Another concert not to be missed.

    What a coincidence!

    ReplyDelete