St John Passion at the Matthäuskirche on Good Friday

Each year during Holy Week, many churches in and around Munich perform one of the Bach Passions or a similarly sacred work. The one at the Matthäuskirche (at Sendlingertor) was performed by the Münchner MotettenChor and the Residenz Orchester München under the direction of Hayko Siemens on Good Friday 6 April 2012. From multiple sources, I had heard that this was one of the best performances on offer in Munich this week. I cannot say I was disappointed.

As with many Bach works, the most interesting thing is not always the melody in the highest voice. Instead, it is the interplay of the inner voices not only with the sopranos but with each other that makes Bach's music so satisfying. This was immediately evident even in the opening Chorus 'Herr, unser Herrscher'. The clear and crisp counterpoint in the first moments of the performance indicated there were good things to come.

The acoustics in many churches are notoriously muddy, which makes it difficult for the listener to distinguish individual vocal lines. However, the musicians did an admirable job of compensating for this. The alto and tenor lines shone through nicely.

The Recitative is often not the most compelling part of an Oratorio. Although the solo voices were excellent, particularly that of the tenor Andrew Lepri Meyer, these are usually the sections that lose my interest. But because the most crucial parts of the story are conveyed in the Recitative, these sections are undoubtedly necessary.

Despite the extraordinary singing of alto Regine Jurda, the orchestra was a bit overpowering in several passages of the initial alto Aria. Much later in the piece, Ms Jurda sang another alto Aria 'Es ist vollbracht' in which she was accompanied by much lighter orchestration and an exquisitely performed viola da gamba solo.

The soprano Magdalena Hinterdobler's voice soared above the strings in both of her Arias. In the first she and the flute traded melodies, while the Aria near the end was accompanied by oboes, flutes and strings. In the former Aria, there were times when the voice and flute together took on a transcendent quality that almost took the listener to another plane.

And then there were the Chorales. These were the highpoint of the performance for me. There is something so pure and earnest in Bach's vocal scoring. The practice of singing the second verse of the Chorale dramatically softer makes the listener sit up and lean forward in the pew. Once again, the clarity of the inner voices made the experience so rewarding.

The same tenor who sang the Evangelist part sang the tenor Arias, and although Mr Lepri Meyer ran into some of the same problems that the alto had in the earlier Aria (beautiful singing that was sometimes covered by the orchestra), by the time we reached the Arioso 'Mein Herz, in dem die ganze Welt bei Jesu Leiden gleichfalls leidet' the tenor's voice easily filled the church. This could easily be the emotional pinnacle of the St John Passion, and yet the final soprano Aria somehow suspended that moment for just a little while longer.

If those Arias took the listener to a state of flight, then the Chorale 'Ruht Wohl, ihr heiligen Gebeine' brought everything softly back down to earth. The flowering counterpoint bloomed and there were even a few moments of a Capella bliss. With this Bach gently prepares for a return to the world after such an ethereal experience.

But not before one final Chorale 'Ach Herr, lass dein lieb Engelein' in which the Münchner MotettenChor took one final opportunity to display the subtlety that had made the evening so enjoyable.

Bach's music remains timeless
Bach's music remains timeless

Write a comment ...
Post comment

Olympiaturm Turns 50

Munich's Olympic Tower was  opened exactly 50 years ago - on February 22nd 1968 - for the first time. With its exactly 291.28 meters, it is to this...

Why Hillary Is Good For Your Health

Hillary the hawk at Stachus
Passing through the basement floor at Stachus these days you might not be sure if you can trust your eyes, as Hillary the Harris Hawk is likely to...

Oh dear, Obikes

Obike Muenchen
So far since launch, 6800 Obikes bikes have been positioned in Munich. More and more of these bicycles-for-rent are being deliberately damaged. Not...

Winter Tollwood 2017

Tollwood Winter Festival
Tollwood Winter Festival 2017 is currently taking place at the Theresienwiese in Munich.
This year's festival motto is: "We, all. Let's stand up and...

Engineering Jobs Fair in Munich

Munich Engineering Jobs - accepting CVs
The Association of German Engineers (VDI) is hosting its annual engineering recruitment fair on Thursday 16th November in Munich. The day-long event...

Second S-Bahn weekend maintenance closures

SBahn delays
For the second - and last - time of the year, the S-Bahn Stammstrecke (main line) will be out of service due to repair and maintenance works.


Munich Security Conference 2018 - City Center becomes a restricted area

Munich Security Conference 2018
This year's Munich Security Conference (MSC) will be held from February 16 - 18th, 2018 at the "Hotel Bayerischer Hof" again. On the agenda are, in...

Institutionalist Ciudadanos won the election, but pro independence parties retain majority

Ines Arrimadas, leader of Ciudadanos with 37 seats obtained most of the support from voters (25,3), but it wasn´t enough to break a majority of pro...

DB Sprinter Hits Technical Issues

It should have been the glorious end of a long and expensive journey; after more than 25 years of planning, political discussions, building halts and...

Is an Executive MBA Worth it?

Chicago Booth MBA
The Future of Business Education: Is an Executive MBA Worth it? Join Chicago Booth in Munich for a candid panel discussion and audience Q&A with...

Rosenheimerplatz Knife Attack - multiple victims

UPDATE: Munich police have now confirmed the man being held is in fact their prime suspect and the emergency situation is now over. UPDATE: a man...

Munich Top City for IT and Engineering

Munich top city for engineering jobs
Back in 2014, a study by the European Commission confirmed that Munich is the city that offers Information and Communication Technology (ICT)...

Advertise with The Munich Eye
Public Service Advertisements
Shades of Love
Spanish Finca for rent Web Site Optimisation
Newspaper sudoku