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Chattanooga Bach Choir Presents St. John Passion May 18

  • Friday, May 17, 2024

The Chattanooga Bach Choir will perform Bach's St. John Passion this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul at 214 E. 8th St. in Chattanooga. 

Tickets are $25-$35 and available here.

About the St. John Passion:

Historical Backdrop
Johann Sebastian Bach’s “St. John Passion,” originally performed in 1724 at Nikolaikirche, Leipzig, represents a milestone in Baroque music.

Bach reworked it several times, finalizing it in 1749, although he never heard this version in his lifetime.

Narrative and Structure
This composition interprets the Passion narrative from the Gospel of John, a tale distinct from the synoptic gospels, rich with dramatic and emotional depth. Bach’s work is divided into five sections: the arrest, Peter’s denial, the trial before Pilate, the crucifixion and death, and the burial, each part unfolding with gripping intensity.

The piece is divided into two parts, each comprising a series of movements that blend together to form a cohesive narrative.

Part One
Chorus: “Herr, unser Herrscher” (Lord, our ruler)
Recitatives and Choruses: Following the story of Jesus and his disciples, leading to Jesus’ capture.
Chorale: “O große Lieb” (O great love)
Recitative: “Auf daß das Wort erfüllet würde” (That the word might be fulfilled)
Chorale: “Dein Will gescheh, Herr Gott, zugleich” (Your will be done, Lord God, likewise)
6-14. Recitatives, Aria, Chorales: Depicting the arrest of Jesus and Peter’s denial.
Part Two
Chorale: “Christus, der uns selig macht” (Christ who makes us blessed)
16-22. Recitatives, Chorales, Arioso, Aria: Focus on the trial before Pilate and Jesus’ condemnation.
23-30. Recitatives, Chorales, Aria: Covering the crucifixion and Jesus’ last moments.
31-40. Recitatives, Arioso, Aria, Chorales: Jesus’ death, the tearing of the temple veil, and his burial.
Musical Evolution
The Passion genre, a blend of chorales, devotional texts, and Gospel passages, sung in German, evolved post-Reformation. Bach, during his tenure as Cantor at Thomasschule, Leipzig, contributed significantly to this genre. His “St. John Passion” stands out for its complex compositional history and its vivid textural contrasts, drawing from a variety of sources and incorporating chorale verses and Passion poetry.

Thematic Essence
Central to this masterpiece is the portrayal of Christ not just as a figure of suffering but as an eternal, omnipresent ruler. This theme resonates throughout the work, particularly in the pivotal chorale “Durch Dein Gefängnis” and the climactic aria “Es ist Vollbracht”.

In summary, Bach’s “St. John Passion” is not just a musical rendition of a biblical story; it’s an intricate tapestry of theology, history, and profound musicality, presenting a multifaceted portrait of one of the pivotal events in Christian lore.

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