St John Passion
By Johann Sebastian Bach
RNCM Concert Hall, 23 June 2017
Here the staging was simple but stunningly effective, the performances perfectly pitched.
For fervent Christians and lapsed Catholics and, who knows, even humanist cheerleaders (those who take Unweaving the Rainbow as their Bible) this is a story full of suffering and noble sacrifice and (albeit for some only poetic) truth.
An advantage of Christianity, in our secular age, is that it is interleaved with such magnificent art (here Bach, also Giotto, Cranach, Leonardo… the list is long) that it renders the creed a certain credence. In order to really get the art, you have to suspend disbelief and momentarily embrace the faith.
On one memorable occasion, which must have been more than a decade ago, I attended a performance of the St John Passion at St Augustine’s in Vienna, a church where fine music is regularly performed even during a normal Sunday mass. This evening’s St John Passion, which had Nicholas Mulroy as The Evangelist and the RNCM Chamber Orchestra and the RNCM Chamber Choir in attendance, was every bit as good as that one. And that was no surprise, actually.