St. John's Passion
STUTTGARTER HYMNUS-CHORKNABEN HANDEL?S COMPANY HOMBURG WINTER VITZTHUM POST
Johann Sebastian Bach revised his St. John Passion several times. Which one to choose? Rainer Johannes Homburg selected the last version for this performance with his Hymnus Choirboys of Stuttgart and Handel's Company. Why? It combines the carefree expressivity of Bach's initial years at St. thomas, eliminating unnecessary second thoughts from his middle years, with an experienced and mature master's instrumental tonal sophistication - which Homburg fully exploits. The richly colored continuo group, here even including a contrabassoon, makes us sit up and listen. While the St. Matthew Passion focuses on Jesus' human suffering, in the St. John Passion, Christ presents himself above all as the divine Redeemer. Bach captures the dramatic reduction going along with this depiction; the carefully balanced symmetry of the composition is a genial reflection of the architecture of the Gospel of St. John, from the initial "Herr unser Herrscher" to the concluding "Dich will ich preisen ewiglich." In this way the narrative of the suffering and death of Jesus - very much as Martin Luther saw it - becomes a message full of happy hoep for all people. Bach repeatedly conveys the special core of this message with special instruments. The viola d'amore is used, and so are the lute, oboe da caccia, and oboe d'amore. However, one of the high points is doubtless the gripping alto aria "Es ist vollbracht," which calls on the solo viola da gamba to express the most highly personal sorrow. The repeated employment of a contrabassoon must have made Bach's contemporaries take special notice. And even today its grumbling in the bass depths results in fascinating shuddering.