St. Matthew Passion
The Greatest Easter Passion
Jani Laaksonen, Jesus
Mati Turi, evangelist
Helianna Herkkola, soprano
Juho Punkeri, tenor
Katariina Heikkilä, alto
Jussi Merikanto, bass
Vanaja Chamber Choir, Vox Cantorum and Vanajavesi Youth Choir (training Ismo Savimäki)
Finnish Baroque Orchestra
Sonja Seppänen and Heikki Seppänen, conductors
The St. Matthew Passion by Bach throws the listener two thousand years back in time into a gory drama. The scenes change frequently: the narrator of the story, the evangelista, carries the plot. The choir alternates between being frightened and spitting and guffawing in the role of the mob and the high priests. In their arias, the soloists reflect their souls at the events. The choir chorals give voice to the reactions of the congregation, while the orchestra paints the events with harmony and instrumentation, sparing no colour. Anyone afraid of the raw Christianity of the work and of looking his own mortality straight in the eyes should stay away. On the other hand, anyone who ventures into the church and is able to sit through the whole three hours will be pulled right into the core of Christendom and the Western cultural history.
The trigger for this performance of the St. Matthew Passion was Topi Linjama’s virtual lecture, which the Vanaja Chamber Choir commissioned to enliven their Covid break. Topi’s calm conversation, stretching from the bottom of the human soul to modern phenomenons, made such an impact on the choir members that they decided right away to see what would happen if they took on this musical monument. They started to labor away on the choir parts of the passion over video connections, one part at a time. The joy of making music together wasn’t there, but the goal was in sight, however still quite far away.
When an amateur choir takes on the St. Matthew Passion, the ride is bumpy and the journey is exhausting to the point where it in itself feels like a passion. When the clouds clear and the goal is finally in sight, the value of the long voyage together is revealed. When nothing is to be taken for granted as a result of education or experience, but comes out of hard work, the music can be felt in every soul of the performers.
Dear listener: three hours on the hard bench of a church is an ordeal. Through the experience, you will be part of the passion yourself. It doesn’t really matter who is conducting, who is singing or playing and who is listening – we are all witnessing the same events.
Soli Deo Gloria.
Duration: 3 h (incl. intermission)