The PassionEnglish choral conductor par excellence Stephen Layton performs this work every Easter in London where it’s an important part of the musical calendar. Auckland experienced his St John Passion last August and it’s our turn tonight.

The story of the arrest, trial, sentencing, scourging and ultimate crucifixion of Jesus Christ, known as the Passion, is an enormously powerful one, whether you hold it central to a Christian faith or not.

In Bach, we have this profound story set to “one of the finest pieces of music in Western culture” – Stephen Layton’s own view and one few would want to argue with. Though Radio New Zealand Concert’s Eva Radich is always up for a challenge! She raises the question of numerous revisions and even neglect of the work by Bach himself, in an Upbeat interview with Stephen. “Indeed,” he replies, “it’s one of those curious things, how a composer in his own time was seen to struggle.”

It was the revival of Bach’s St Matthew Passion by Mendelssohn in 1829 which clinched fresh interest in Bach from the public and scholars – even though the St John Passion had been mounted earlier in 1822. They are Bach’s only two surviving passions – so which is your favourite? 

BACH: St John Passion BWV245

Evangelist........................ Nicholas Mulroy
Jesus................................. Paul Whelan

Siobhán Stagg (sop), Christopher Lowrey (countertenor), Derek Welton (bass), University of Auckland Chamber Choir, Auckland Philharmonia/Stephen Layton

Recorded in the Auckland Town Hall by Radio New Zealand