Good Friday 1727 in Leipzig was a particularly good Friday. When Bach had first arrived, four years earlier, he had no doubt wowed his employers – not to mention the congregation – with that year’s Easter offering, the St. John Passion. Bach was ushered to Leipzig on the promise of a very large salary indeed, so the splendour of the work was timely. One of the reasons for Bach’s constant use of existing chorale tunes was not just familiarity to his audience, but also sheer necessity. Four years into the job, though, he decided to compose another major choral piece, in addition to providing weekly music at two churches, teaching singing to school children, training the choir and teaching Latin. The St. Matthew Passion is a monster of a work for two orchestras with extra words by Bach’s favourite poet, Picander.
Jonathan Bunney MMus (dist.) FRCO
Director of Music: St. Anthony’s School, Hampstead.