St. John Passion

   , Johann Sebastian Bach, BWV 245
   Scored for four-voice choir, vocal soloists, and an orchestra of strings and continuo with obbligato instruments: two flutes, two oboes, two oboes da caccia, oboe d’amore, lute, two violas d’amore, viola da gamba (the precise scoring of each number is not clear because no score survives from the earliest version). The 67 numbered movements are divided into Parts I and II, and require about one hour and 45 minutes to perform. The work is universally recognized as one of the great exemplars of the passion tradition.
   Johann Sebastian Bach first performed this passion at vespers on Good Friday, 7 April 1724, in St. Nicholas Church, Leipzig. The libretto of this version contains chapters 18 and 19 of St. John’s Gospel, two interpolations from St. Matthew that describe Peter’s remorse and the miraculous events following Christ’s death, and poetic commentary drawn from various sources, including a famous libretto of B. H. Brockes. Bach sets these various texts to four kinds of music: recitative for the Gospel, except where speeches by the Apostles or the crowd require a "madrigal" chorus; arioso for the poetry immediately reacting to the Gospel passages, followed immediately by an aria for more reflective commentary; and simple, fourvoice chorale settings for poems that express a more collective response. Bach performed the St. John Passion again in 1725, 1732, and 1749, altering the work each time, adding or substituting new movements and changing texts.
   See also St. Matthew Passion.

Historical dictionary of sacred music. . 2006.

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