The St. Matthew Passion is revered today as one of the great masterpieces of the choral repertoire. But along with much of Bach’s vast output, it sank into obscurity in the decades following his death in 1750.
At the age of 13, Felix Mendelssohn was given a copy of Bach’s Passion as a Christmas gift. He fell in love with it. Seven years later in 1829, he presented a performance of the work in his own arrangement, changing some orchestration and making cuts to several sections.
His championing of the work helped to inspire a widespread revival of Bach’s music, and fueled the growth of choral societies across Europe and the United States.
The North American premiere of Mendelssohn’s 1841 edition of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, led by Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia Artistic Director Alan Harler, took place in Philadelphia in February of this year. WRTI will broadcast that performance on Good Friday at noon.
Harler studied the detailed performing notes found in Mendelssohn’s copy of Bach’s manuscript; this performance was based on that research.
At Intermission, Alan Harler explains his interest in this edition of the St. Matthew Passion, and Mendelssohn's re-introduction of this work - and other major works of J.S. Bach - to audiences who had previously not heard Bach's music, as it had fallen out of fashion.
Mendelssohn's study of the St. Matthew Passion, and his fascination with it, had begun in his early teenage years, and Harler explains some of Mendelssohn's changes to the Bach score as part of our broadcast Friday. This concert performance by the Mendelssohn Club marked the North American premiere of this edition of Bach's masterwork.
Experience Bach’s genius through Mendelssohn’s eyes on Good Friday, April 3rd, following the noontime news, on WRTI.
Alan Harler, conductor
The Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia
The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia
Susanna Phillips, soprano
Marietta Simpson, mezzo-soprano
Yusuke Fujii, tenor
Andrew Bogard, bass