classical music, opera, theatre

J. S. Bach: Saint John Passion

The first version, premiered 300 years ago in 1724

one interval
Béla Bartók National Concert Hall

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The approach of Easter sees Bach's passions, masterpieces of religious music, being played in churches and concert halls with increasing frequency. Together with some superb soloists - Ágnes Kovács, Eszter Balogh, Zoltán Megyesi, Bernhard Berchtold and Stephan MacLeod - and under the baton of György Vashegyi, the Purcell Choir and Orfeo Orchestra will perform the Saint John Passion, a work first heard three hundred years ago, on 7 April 1724, at Leipzig's Nikolaikirche, where it hit the audience like an earthquake.

The story of the Saviour's sufferings, told within the framework defined by liturgical traditions, is the subject of many great works from music history by composers ranging from Schütz to Penderecki. According to public opinion, the two most significant monuments in the genre of the passion are the two by Johann Sebastian Bach: the earlier John and, dating from three years later, the other based on the text of the Gospel of Matthew. What both works share is how they entrust the greatest task to the tenor part of the Evangelist: he is the narrator of the story. Analysts consider the shorter Saint John Passion to be the more dramatic and direct in tone, while the longer Saint Matthew Passion is presented more abstractly and with more philosophical content. In addition to the artistic form of the original performance, the Saint John Passion went through three later versions: this concert presents the audience with the original version of the composition, consisting of recitatives, arias, choruses and chorales, alternating between narratives and moments of reflection. The team of Hungarian, Austrian and Swiss soloists are outstanding connoisseurs of the style, and György Vashegyi, the conductor of the Purcell Choir and Orfeo Orchestra, which he has directed since founding them more than thirty years, is Hungary's leading interpreter of the Bach passions.

Presented by: Haydneum - Hungarian Centre for Early Music


  • György Vashegyi
  • soprano
    Ágnes Kovács
  • alto
    Eszter Balogh
  • tenor
    Zoltán Megyesi, Bernhard Berchtold
  • bass
    Stephan MacLeod
  • Purcell Choir
  • Orfeo Orchestra (on period instruments)

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