Six soloists to star in Bach’s ‘The Passion According to St. Matthew’ performing with the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus this weekend
By Jenna Jay
Two orchestras, adult and children choruses, plus vocal and instrumental soloists will all be part of the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus’ Saturday and Sunday performances of J.S. Bach’s “The Passion According to St. Matthew.”The colossal event is a timely performance for the Easter season, as the piece is based on the Biblical story of the Last Supper and Jesus’ crucifixion as taken from the Book of Matthew, Chapters 26-27.
Notable soloists joining the LJS&C for the concert include Jon Lee Keenan as the “Evangelist,” along with soprano Angela Cadelago, mezzo-soprano Janelle DeStefano, tenor Benjamin Bliss, baritone Gregorio Gonzalez, bass Abdiel Gonzalez, and The North Coast Singers children’s choir.
“This is a really big concert,” said LJS&C choral director David Chase. “ ‘Saint Matthew Passion’ is not performed very often in San Diego County because it’s such a large piece —the largest single work that Bach ever composed — and it was arguably his favorite.”
The masterwork was first performed on Good Friday in 1727 at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, Germany where Bach was cantor. The LJS&C and guests have been preparing their version since January 2011.
“To do a piece like this is kind of like being in charge of planning the D-Day invasion of Normandy,” Chase joked, reporting that all of the groups involved learned their parts separately before coming together during the final week of rehearsals.
“The first time we’ll have all of the performers together at the same time in the same room is Monday before the concert. It’s like putting all the pieces of the puzzle in separately for the two-and-a-half hour-production.
“Because it’s so dramatic, because it’s almost like an opera, we’re going to keep the lights out and give the audience supertitles to follow the whole thing. It should flow very much like a movie or an opera.
“It’s simply fantastic music … it’s gorgeous and beautiful music … it has an amazing flow of drama from beginning to end. I hope that’s what audiences go home with, as well as the inviting love of Johann Sebastian Bach.”
What to listen for
Bach’s setting falls into two huge parts. The first tells of the Last Supper, the betrayal of Christ by Judas, and Christ’s seizure by the authorities. The second part tells of the trial, Peter’s denial, the crucifixion, and the burial. Bach’s deployment of his varied forces is imaginative, and individual characters, such as the Evangelist and Jesus, emerge in different ways. But it is the changing function of the chorus that may be the work’s most striking feature. At times the chorus is a crowd surging uneasily through the streets; at other times it can be the disciples or an angry shrieking mob. This fluid identity of the chorus is one of the most original features of the work. —Source: La Jolla Symphony & Chorus
If you go
What: “The Passion According to St. Matthew” from La Jolla Symphony & Chorus’
When: 7:30 p.m. April 30; 3 p.m. May 1
Pre-concert lecture: One hour prior
Where: Mandeville Auditorium at UCSD
Contact: (858) 534-4637
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