Thursday, 20 April 2017


In a week when every news bulletin seems to ratch up another shock 'The Great Passon' restored a sense of perspective. 
What a wonderful BBC radio 4 play this was - based on Johann Sebastian Bach's composition of the St Matthew Passion in 1727.  Whatever one's belief or lack of it the play was a moving imagining of the creation of this great work of music.  The play provided an intimate view of the Bach household with his wife Anna Magdalena smoothing over troubled waters, rehearsing wobbly singers and coping with the stillbirth of her child.  Bach came over as younger, less forbidding and more vulnerable than the famous portraits of him as an irascible bewigged middle aged man.  He still lived life on a short fuse but Anna Magdalena knew he was a driven man ('Nothing is ever enough' he says towards the end of the play) but there were also moments of great tenderness between him and his young wife.
We heard sections of the St Matthew Passion throughout the play and a good long chunk at the end.  These were performed by the choristers of St Mary's music school and the incomparable Dunedin Consort.  The music of the Passion is breath-stopping.
There is another 25 days to catch James Runcie's brilliant play on iplayer, with Simon Russell Beale as Bach and Melody Grove as Anna Magdalena.  Highly recommended.

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