Today would have marked our third performance of Bach St John Passion. In honour of this, Choir Director Ivars Taurins created a playlist, featuring his highlights from the program. Read his thoughts below, and listen to his playlist on Spotify here.

By Ivars Taurins, Director, Chamber Choir

“This week I would have been directing Tafelmusik Orchestra and Choir, and a wonderful cast of soloists, in Bach’s St John Passion.

This would also normally be the time, as we approach Easter, that many musicians and music-lovers around the world would be turning to Bach’s two great Passions, St. Matthew and St. John — whether in a sacred space or concert hall — to reflect, to be challenged, and to find solace.

The world now finds itself in the unique and unsettling situation of not being able to come together in shared experiences, whether in the concert hall, opera house, theatre, place of worship, or just in a social gathering. We are bereft of the thing that humanity thrives on. We now look to other ways to connect and communicate.

As we at Tafelmusik are sadly unable to share Bach’s remarkable music with our audiences in a live experience, I was moved to create a playlist from Bach’s St John Passion of the pieces that affect and move me the most, and invite you to join me in listening to it. The selections I’ve chosen include performances sung and played by artists whom I greatly admire. They remind me of the incredible array of singers that have graced Tafelmusik’s stage in our performances of Bach’s Passions over the years, and with whom we’ve had the great privilege of collaborating.

The selections on the playlist range from choruses and chorales, to arias and recitatives. It is in the latter where a text, masterfully enrobed by Bach in a musical turn of phrase, never fails to strike to the core of my emotions and overwhelm me: the moment when Peter weeps bitterly with the understanding of his denial of Christ (track 2), or when Jesus speaks to his mother Mary and those gathered below the cross (track 8), or when he is laid to rest in the garden tomb (track 15)

The emotional breadth of Bach’s musical palette in the St John Passion is staggering, whether in choruses, chorales, or solo movements: pieces like the massive, roiling, relentless opening chorus (track 1), which have the raw intensity of Caravaggio’s “The Taking of Christ,” or others (“Betrachte meine Seel,” track 6, “Zerfließe, mein Herze,” track 14) that paint the most bittersweet poignancy and tenderness.

All of us at Tafelmusik look to the time when we can all join together again with you, our audience, to share, face-to-face, in the experience and message of music. In the meantime, let’s keep the music in our hearts.”