Music for the soul, both dramatic and contemplative – rich with intricate details. Bach believed he was making ‘the greatest of all Christian works’ and we suspect he may have been right. Transcendent, heartrending and redolent with sorrow this is one of the world’s major choral works.
The hairs stand up on my neck from the minute the orchestra begins the Prologue, and the music (Bach was such a genius) just builds and builds until the two choirs enter with a sublime first chorus, which goes on for 16 pages, each choir almost singing to the other – just amazing. The chorus work is never boring – one minute soft and intimate, the next exciting and super loud, all interjected by this gorgeous high tenor ‘telling’ the story.
The rich harmonies, the wonderful melodies, the sympathetic orchestration, all seem just perfect to me, and I am always sad to get to the last few pages, as it’s such a fantastic singing experience. The final chorus is another long one, and wrings the last drop of emotion out of you as a singer, so much so that you almost don’t want the audience to applaud and break the spell. Often, in performances I have been part of, the conductor will hold his baton up for quite a time after the music has finished, to hold the atmosphere for a little longer.