Almost a year ago, the American Bach Soloists (ABS) began their 2012 subscription series of concerts with a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s BWV 244b setting of the Passion text in the Gospel According to Saint Matthew. The “b” referred to the fact that the score they used was based on the first version of the composition in a manuscript that Bach handed down to his principal assistant (and son-in-law), Johann Christoph Altnickol. This event was impressive enough to find its way onto my “memorable concerts of 2012” list for the month of February.
This year the subscription series will begin with Bach’s other major setting of a Passion text, the one taken from the Gospel According to Saint John (BWV 245). This was originally composed for the Good Friday Vespers service held in the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig in 1724. While Bach would later make revisions several times, this original version is the one that is most frequently performed. However, Bach introduced alternate numbers in 1725, which are significant enough to have been included in the appendix of the Neue Bach-Ausgabe publication. The Wikipedia entry for BWV 245 summarizes these changes as follows:
In 1725, Bach replaced the opening and closing choruses and added three arias (BWV 245a-c) while cutting one (Ach, mein Sinn) from the original version. The opening chorus was replaced by O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß, which was later transposed and reused at the end of part one of the St. Matthew Passion. The closing chorale was replaced by a setting of Christe, Du Lamm Gottes, taken from the cantata Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn, BWV 23. The three new arias are not known to have been reused.
The source for this paragraph is Christoph Wolff’s book Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician.
This 1725 version is the one that ABS will perform. Artistic Director Jeffrey Thomas will conduct the American Bach Choir accompanied by the ABS instrumentalists. The role of the Evangelist will be sung by tenor Aaron Sheehan, and baritone William Sharp will sing the words of Christ. The other soloists for the performance will be soprano Clara Rottsolk, countertenor Brennan Hall (an ABS Academy alumnus making his debut), tenor Derek Chester, and baritone Joshua Copeland.
The San Francisco performance of this concert will take place at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church (1111 O’Farrell Street, near the corner of Franklin) at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, January 27. In addition, there will be a lecture about the music given by Steven Lehning, who performs on both violone and contrabass, which will begin at 3:00 p.m. Tickets range in price from $20 to $60. There is an event page for this concert on the ABS Web site, as well a Web page for purchasing tickets. Further information is available by telephone at 415-621-7900.
In addition, as was the case last year, there will be a Master Class in baroque performance at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music given in conjunction with this concert event. This year the Master Class will be led by William Sharp; and it will be held in the Conservatory Recital Hall at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, January 21. Once again this event will be open to the general public for free, and no tickets will be required.