St Matthew Passion BWV 244
Johann Sebastian Bach


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Bach's choral masterpiece falls to its lowest-ever position

Good Friday 1727 in Leipzig was a particularly good Friday. When Bach had first arrived, four years earlier, he had no doubt wowed his employers not to mention the congregation with that year's easter offering, the St. John Passion. Bach was ushered to Leipzig on the promise of a very large salary indeed, so the splendour of the work was probably timely. Given that he was responsible for providing weekly music at not one, but two, churches, for teaching singing to the school-children, for training the choir, for teaching Latin (although, in the end, he farmed this part out to a deputy), he could surely be forgiven for thinking he was doing enough.

Four years into the job, though, he decided to compose another major choral piece. The St. Matthew Passion is a monster of a work for two orchestras with extra words by Bach's favourite poet, Picander.

The Calling of Saint Matthew by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (c.1600).