John Nelson conducts St Matthew Passion, BWV 244 in the exceptional setting of the Basilica of St Denis.
Bach's St Matthew Passion is a monumental musical work: two choirs, two orchestras, four soloists and one narrator embodying Matthew the Evangelist. But beyond the extraordinary mass sonority, it is the dramatic tension of the Passion's narrative that holds the spectators spellbound during this three-hour long oratorio.
From affliction to hope, from joy to despondency, St Matthew Passion explores the whole spectrum of human passions and seems to sublimate them in an archetypal musical expression, as shown by the aria "Erbarme dich." Probably the best-known aria of the whole score, "Erbarme dich" expresses admirably the remorse and grief of Peter the Apostle when he "remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, 'Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.' So he went out and wept bitterly" (Matt. 26:75). The melodic lines of the duet made up of the violin and the soloist hint subtly Peter's plea for forgiveness, and eventually, his hope in salvation.
The Basilica of St Denis (Saint-Denis, France) offers an exceptional setting which in many respects echoes the monumental architecture of Bach's masterpiece. Eventually, two monuments which seem to lift up the listeners' soul.
Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Gulbenkian Choir