Critic’s Choice

March 16, 2016 at 1:37 pm

By David Wright


J.S. Bach is known to have composed, or at least compiled, five different settings for the story of Christ’s suffering and death—the Passion narrative—as recounted by the four evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  The passions according to St. Matthew and St. John have come down to us intact, while that of St. Luke and another version of St. Matthew are lost.

The Passion According to St. Mark is a fragment, likely left that way by Bach after he put together the Good Friday music for 1731 from some original and some recycled compositions.  Although many of the piece’s original arias and choruses represent Bach at his best, they are rarely heard today because, except for Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, fragmentary works don’t usually appear on concert programs.

The Bach specialists at Emmanuel Music, under their artistic director Ryan Turner, have been “off the reservation” all season with programs of Bach’s music arranged, reinterpreted, even parodied. Saturday night, the august organization adds “reconstructed” to the list with a performance of the St. Mark Passion as it might have sounded in 1731, the original movements combined with other music by Bach, under the guidance of noted Bach scholar Christoph Wolff.  The concert offers a chance to hear rare, authentic Bach Passion music in the dramatic context for which it was intended.

The Passion According to St. Mark will be performed 8 p.m. Saturday, Emmanuel Church, 15 Newbury Street.; 617-536-3356 Ext. 19

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