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April 2014
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About the St. Matthew Passion


Chicago Bach Project’s St. Matthew Passion Live, Friday at 7:30 pm

The history—and the mysteries—of Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. Matthew Passion are endless. It was written in 1727. One hundred years later, it was all but forgotten.

Listen to Bill McGlaughlin on the opening of the Passion:

Listen to Bill McGlaughlin on painting the characters in the Passion:



Inspiration of St. Matthew by Caravaggio







The Revival

There was a highly cultivated woman living in Berlin by the name of Sarah Itzig Levy who had studied the harpsichord with Bach’s oldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann. Sarah was a musical activist; she sang, she collected manuscripts, she commissioned music from Wilhelm’s brother, Carl. Sarah’s sister Bella had two grandkids who were extraordinarily gifted musically: Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn.

Felix Mendelssohn was around 15 years old when his grandmother Bella gave him a manuscript of an obscure piece of music: J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. That gift lit a fire under young Mendelssohn. He was determined to launch a performance. It took the youth five years to reconstruct and write out parts in order to actually perform the music; which he did, enlisting friends, family and anybody who could play or sing—some covering multiple parts, in 1829.

First page in Mendelssohn's hand of J.S. Bach's Cantata, BWV 106; from Library of Congressw

First page in Mendelssohn’s hand of J.S. Bach’s Cantata, BWV 106; from Library of Congress

Exploring music

Bill McGlaughlin will present a week-long examination of the St. Matthew Passion in honor of Holy Week, starting on Monday at 7:00 pm.

The Performance

Chicago Bach Choir & Orchestra, with musicians from the Lyric Opera Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Grant Park Music Festival, along with Anima (Young Singers of Chicago) and soloists, perform J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion under the direction of John Nelson on Friday at 7:30 pm, live at the Harris Theater and on WFMT.

John Nelson, conductor
Nicholas Phan, Evangelist
Stephen Morscheck, Jesus
Lisette Oropesa, soprano
Lawrence Zazzo, countertenor
Colin Ainsworth, tenor
Matthew Brook, bass-baritone
Tobias Greenhalgh, baritone
Chicago Bach Choir & Orchestra
Donald Nally, chorus master
Anima (Young Singers of Greater Chicago)
Emily Ellsworth, director

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