Topi Lehtipuu. Photo: Monica Rittershaus.
Thu 18.4.2019 07.00 pm St. John’s Church, Helsinki

St. Matthew Passion

The Standard Program for Maundy Thursday

J. S. Bach

Topi Lehtipuu, tenor (evangelist) and conductor
Juha Kotilainen, bass (Jesus)
Hendrickje Van Kerckhove, soprano
Delphine Galou, alto
Fernando Guimarães, tenor
Aarne Pelkonen, bass
CandoMini, Helsingin konservatorion nuoret laulajat and Kannelkellot
Suomen Laulu
Finnish Baroque Orchestra


The St. Matthew Passion by Suomen Laulu Choir has become an institution on the Easter music scene in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. Since 1921, the St. Matthew Passion has been an inseparable part of the Easter traditions of both Suomen Laulu’s singers and its audience. Through the years, both international and Finnish top singers have starred as soloists, and rising stars have started their solo career with the St. Matthew Passion. In 2019, popular Finnish tenor Topi Lehtipuu will debut as conductor, as well as appear in the rare double role of both singer and conductor. He follows Peter Schreier, who in the early 1990s both conducted the St. John Passion in Helsinki and performed as Evangelist. The remaining soloists have been chosen by Lehtipuu from his wide networks, and they represent the international elite of Baroque singers.

The St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) illustrates the Easter events starting from the prediction made by Jesus in Bethany, to his burial. It was premiered in the cathedral in Leipzig on Good Friday 1727 or 1729, depending on the source. Bach returned to the oratorio in 1736, when he added the St. John Passion’s choir chorale O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß and two organs to the instrumentation. In 1740, he made some slight further modifications to the score. Bach conducted the premiere himself, and he is known to have conducted the performances of his passions yearly until at least 1739, possibly longer, but there is no evidence of later performances.

The oratorio continues the tradition of dramatic oratorio passions, which developed in the 17th century in the German-speaking areas. The earliest examples are the St. John Passion from 1641 by Thomas Selle from Hamburg, and the three passions by Heinrich Schütz. In 1713 in Weimar, Bach had performed Reinhard Keiser’s St. Mark Passion with some additions. The oratorio passion had already become an Easter tradition in Leipzig. Johann Kuhnau, Bach’s predecessor as Thomaskantor, has composed and performed his own St. Mark Passion in 1722, and Bach continued this tradition the following year with his St. John Passion.

Duration: 3 h 15 min (incl. intermission)