In Bach’s lifetime the piece was performed at least four times. In the late 18th century the interest in the Passion
died away to be renewed after the famous performance by Felix Mendelssohn on March 11, 1829. In the 20th century St. Matthew Passion
was performed by modern and authentic orchestras conducted by many renown maestros including Karl Richter, Gustav Leonhardt, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Leonard Bernstein, Herbert von Karajan to mention but a few. This time the podium will be taken by the Novaya Opera’s Chief Conductor Jan Latham-Koenig, who won recognition from the Russian audience with his interpretation of Britten’s War Requim
performed at the 2010 Festival.
For me the Matthew Passion is one of the pillars not just of classical music, but of European civilization. It is the quite extraordinary emotional structural religious achievement by Bach. This is, what is probably of many great works, his greatest work. For all audiences of whatever or no religion this combination of drama, emotion and deeply felt religiosity means that even within the Baroque language of Bach’s time he achieves an effect on the public (and of course in his time on the simple churchgoers) that today would be inconceivable. And I leave you with a remark that the great German conductor Furtwängler said about Bach: “Bach has just as much emotion and soul as Puccini, only that it is less exposed”.