Krzysztof Penderecki

Krzysztof Penderecki
Krzysztof Penderecki (1933-2020) conducting his oratorio "Seven Gates of Jerusalem" at the Winter Palace, St Petersburg, in 2001. Photo by Dmitry Lovetsky

Friday, November 23, 2018

Johann Sebastian Bach: St Matthew Passion, BWV 244 – Benjamin Hulett, Griet De Geyter, Lore Binon, Tim Mead, Alex Potter, Thomas Hobbs, Charles Daniels, Andreas Wolf, Sebastian Noack – Kampen Boys Choir, Netherlands Bach Society, Jos van Veldhoven

Great soloists and choristers, the Kampen Boys Choir, the orchestra Nederlandse Bachvereniging (Netherlands Bach Society) and the Dutch conductor Jos van Veldhoven perform Johann Sebastian Bach's St Matthew Passion, BWV 244. Recorded at Grote Kerk, Naarden, Netherlands, on April 16 and 19, 2014.

Betrayal, judgement and death, but above all love; although most of the words of the St Matthew Passion are almost 2000 years old, the message is still relevant today.

The St Matthew Passion tells the story of the last days of Jesus. He is betrayed, tried, crucified and buried. The lyrics were compiled by Picander (the pseudonym of Christian Friedrich Henrici), probably in close consultation with Bach himself. For their theme, they took the story as told by St Matthew the Evangelist. As different groups or people have their say, the singers get different roles – Christ, Judas, Peter, a slave girl, the pupils, the high priests, the people and the soldiers, etc.

At key moments in the story, Bach and Picander added chorales and arias as a reflection of the biblical story. The action is suspended and the events are placed in the theological context of Bach's day. The chorale lyrics and melodies come from the Lutheran hymn book, and were well known to the congregation in Leipzig. Even though Bach's harmonies were new, everyone would have recognised the melody and the words. The lyrics for the opening and closing choruses and the arias were brand new, however. Both the arias and the chorales often link up seamlessly with the evangelical words.

In his lyrics, Picander distinguishes between two groups of people: the "Daughters of Zion" (Jerusalem) on the one hand, and the faithful souls on the other. Picander often puts these two groups in dialogue with one another. Bach reinforces this dialogue effect by having two separate ensembles of singers and instrumentalists, which he refers to as coro I and coro II. Each of the two ensembles has its own function. The first choir is part of the story and provides the most important emotional reactions, as in the arias "Erbarme dich" and "Aus Liebe". The second choir asks questions, provides commentary and draws conclusions.

In the chorales, Bach combines the two ensembles, and the whole group supports the spoken word. He also uses both choirs together where he wants to portray the furious crowd to maximum effect, as in "Lass ihn kreuzigen". The first choir always takes the lead, and the second follows.

The "Dutch" passion. Whether or not they are lovers of classical music, practically everyone in the Netherlands knows the St Matthew Passion. Every year, there is a real "Matthew madness" in the month before Easter. Each town has its own performance and any reasonably large concert hall has at least two or three. The first performance of the St Matthew Passion in the Netherlands was in Rotterdam in 1870. Amsterdam followed suit in 1874. With the Concertgebouw orchestra, Willem Mengelberg then instituted a Passion tradition in Amsterdam that still continues today. In reaction to the Mengelberg performances, the Netherlands Bach Society was formed in 1921. The founders thought that the St Matthew should be performed where it belonged – in a church. The annual performance by the Bach Society in Naarden grew to become "the" Dutch St Matthew Passion.


Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

♪ St Matthew Passion / Matthäus-Passion, BWV 244 (Leipzig, ca. 1725-1728, 1729, 1736)

Soloists Coro I
Benjamin Hulett, tenor (Evangelist)
Griet De Geyter, soprano (First Maid, Pilate's Wife)
Tim Mead, alto
Thomas Hobbs, tenor
Andreas Wolf, bass (Jesus)

Soloists Coro II
Lore Binon, soprano 
Alex Potter, alto (First Witness)
Charles Daniels, tenor (Second Witness)
Sebastian Noack, bass (Judas, Pilate)

Ripieno soprano: Annelies Brants (Second Maid), Sarah Van Mol, Hilde Van Ruymbeke
Ripieno alto: Victoria Cassano McDonald, Bernadett Nagy
Ripieno tenor: Yves Van Handenhove, João Moreira
Ripieno bass: Lionel Meunier (Peter, First High Priest), Sebastian Myrus (Second High Priest)

Kampen Boys Choir

Nederlandse Bachvereniging (Netherlands Bach Society)
Conductor: Jos van Veldhoven

Concert Production: Imke Deters, Marco Meijdam
Producers: Frank van der Weij, Zoë de Wilde
Film Director: Lucas van Woerkum
Director of Photography: Sal Kroonenberg
Camera: Sal Kroonenberg, Simon Aarden, Robert Berger, Ruben van den Broeke, Geert van Schoot, Jorrit Garretsen, Benjamin Sparschuh
Film Editor: Lucas van Woerkum
Music Recording Producer: Leo de Klerk

Grote Kerk, Naarden, Netherlands, April 16 and 19, 2014

(HD 720p)

The Dutch choral conductor Jos van Veldhoven born in 1952 in Den Bosch, Netherlands. He studied musicology at the Rijksuniversiteit of Utrecht, and choral and orchestral conducting at the Royal Conservatory, the Hague. He has been artistic director of the Netherlands Bach Society (Nederlandse Bachvereniging) since 1983. In this capacity he regularly gives performances at home and abroad of the major works of Johann Sebastian Bach and his predecessors and contemporaries. In addition he has been the director since 1976 of the Utrechts Barok Consort, which he founded. He has made a great number of radio, television, and CD recordings with his ensembles, and he has appeared in festivals in the Netherlands, many countries in Western Europe, the United States, and Japan.

The New York Times stated that "Mr. van Veldhoven elicits readings in the best current style, lithe and lithing but also muscular, imaginative and spontaneous". He has been described by NRC Handelsblad as "the top ranking Netherlands choral director", and by Trouw as "one of the few Netherlands early music performers [with] all-important pioneering zeal".

Jos van Veldhoven is a regular guest artist with international orchestras including Das Orchester der Beethovenhalle Bonn, the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Telemann Chamber Orchestra, and the Essener Philharmoniker. Together with director Dietrich Hilsdorf, Jos van Veldhoven has been working since 2001 on a cycle of staged Handel oratorios at the Bonn Opera. Van Veldhoven also appears in his native country as a guest conductor, including appearances with Holland Symfonia and Opera Zuid.

In previous years, Jos van Veldhoven has attracted frequent attention with performances of "new" repertoire within the realm of early music. Noteworthy among them were performances of oratorios by Telemann and Graun, Vespers by Gastoldi, Netherlands repertoire of the Golden Age, reconstructions of Bach's St Mark Passion as well as the so-called Köthener Trauermusik and many unknown 17th century musical dialogues. He also conducted a great many contemporary premieres of baroque operas by composers including Mattheson, Keiser, Andrea and Giovanni Bononcini, Legrenzi, Conti, and Scarlatti. In 2008 he celebrated his 25th anniversary as artistic director of The Netherlands Bach Society, conducting Joseph Haydn's The Creation.

Jos van Veldhoven is professor of choral conducting at the Amsterdam Conservatory and the Royal Conservatory of The Hague.


For over 90 years, the Netherlands Bach Society has been bringing you closer to Bach. It all started in 1921 with the plan to perform Bach's St Matthew Passion in the Grote Kerk in Naarden. It was deliberately decided to perform it in a church with a smaller group, as a counterpart to Willem Mengelberg's performances in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. Over the years, the Bach Society grew to become a leading ensemble with a flexible core of musicians. Artistic director Jos van Veldhoven continually shed new light on the work of Bach and his contemporaries, with his innovative programming and thorough research.

The ensemble is still performing the St Matthew Passion in the Grote Kerk in Naarden every year. Around fifty concerts a season are given throughout the Netherlands. The ensemble has been a guest in various European cities and has given concert tours in the United States and Japan. Last season, it performed at the Musikfest Stuttgart and the Bachbiennale Weimar. In June, the Bach Society performed the world premiere of Oidípous, by Calliope Tsoupaki, at the Holland Festival.

Jos van Veldhoven "lends out" his ensemble several times a year to specialists. For example, the ensemble has worked with Richard Egarr, Peter Dijkstra, Paul McCreesh, Iván Fischer, Masaaki Suzuki, Lars Ulrik Mortensen, Konrad Junghänel, Ed Spanjaard and Gustav Leonhardt.

The Netherlands Bach Society attaches great importance to education. Every year, many schools attend one of the St Matthew concerts as part of the educational project Face to face with the St Matthew Passion. In 2012, in partnership with the Rabobank, a new successful project for secondary school pupils was developed: Beats by Bach. These projects actively contribute to developing future audiences. Last season, the Netherlands Bach Society started All of Bach, a long-term project in which all of Bach's works will be performed and recorded.


More photos

See also

Johann Sebastian Bach: Cantata BWV 29, “Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir” – Maria Keohane, Damien Guillon, Valerio Contaldo, Lionel Meunier, Netherlands Bach Society, Jos van Veldhoven (HD 1080p)

Johann Sebastian Bach: Cantata BWV 78, “Jesu, der du meine Seele” – Maria Keohane, Tim Mead, Daniel Johannsen, Matthew Brook, Netherlands Bach Society, Jos van Veldhoven (HD 1080p)


Johann Sebastian Bach: St Matthew Passion, BWV 244 – Concentus Musicus Wien, Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1971, Audio video)

Johann Sebastian Bach: St Matthew Passion, BWV 244 – Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia, Ton Koopman (2015, HD 1080p)

Johann Sebastian Bach: St Matthew Passion, BWV 244 – Cappella Breda Boys, Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir, Ton Koopman (HD 1080p)


George Frideric Handel: Rodelinda – Jeanine De Bique, Tim Mead, Benjamin Hulett, Avery Amereau, Jakub Józef Orliński, Andrea Mastroni – Le Concert d'Astrée, Emmanuelle Haïm (HD 1080p)

Antonio Vivaldi: Stabat Mater, & Nisi Dominus – Tim Mead, Les Accents, Thibault Noally

Johann Sebastian Bach: St John Passion, BWV 245 – Nicholas Mulroy, Matthew Brook, Sophie Bevan, Tim Mead, Andrew Tortise, Konstantin Wolff, Robert Davies – Dunedin Consort, John Butt

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