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The Good Friday 5: Musical Passion Stories You Must Hear

This 1653 engraving by Rembrandt inspired composer Frank Martin to write his oratorio <em>Golgotha </em>in 1945.
Wikimedia Commons
This 1653 engraving by Rembrandt inspired composer Frank Martin to write his oratorio Golgotha in 1945.

For Christians around the world, this week, leading up to Easter Sunday, is one of the most meaningful in the religious calendar. The dramatic story of Jesus' final days, as related in the four Gospels of the New Testament, has been meaningful for composers, too, and a rich source for many musical settings of the Passion story. J.S. Bach is still the benchmark when it comes to composing Passions. His St. John Passion and especially St. Matthew Passion continue to loom large over any composer attempting to tell the tale. For the Holy Week, we've picked a few of our favorite musical Passions — four from the 20th and 21st centuries sit alongside Bach's monumental St. Matthew.

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Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.
Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.