J.S. Bach‘s St Matthew Passion conducted by Hörður Áskelsson
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Johann Sebastian Bach‘s St Matthew Passion, one of history‘s most revered works of art, will be performed in Akureyri and Reykjavík during Holy Week by world-class soloists accompanied by the North Iceland Symphonic Orchestra, the North Iceland Chamber Choir, Hymnodia Chamber Choir and Akureyri Church Girls‘ Choir/Hallgrímskirkja Church Children‘s Choir, conducted by Hörður Áskelsson.
Every performance of the St Matthew Passion is an important event. The history of the composition is remarkable. Having been performed several times in Leipzig by Bach himself, the work fell into obscurity for nearly a century, until the 20-year-old Felix Mendelssohn conducted a performance in Berlin in 1829. The success of this performance started a worldwide revival of the music of Bach and the St Matthew Passion has ever since been hailed as a pinnacle of sacred music.
The St Matthew Passion is a profound interpretation of the Passion of Christ as it is told in the Gospel of Matthew. Bach illustrates the events of the story – the Last Supper, Judas‘ betrayal, Peter‘s denial, the arrest of Jesus, his flagellation, crucifixion and death – in great tonal tableaus with music of soaring beauty and dramatic intensity, regularly shifting the focal point from the historical venue to the conscience of the listener.
The St Matthew Passion is Bach‘s most extensive work: lasting about three hours in performance, it is written for seven soloists, tvo choirs, tvo orchestras and children‘s voices. About 100 singers and instrumentalists will participate in the upcoming performances of the passion in Akureyri and Reykjavík.
The group of soloists is remarkable: Scottish-Icelandic soprano Hannah Morrison, one of the world‘s leading baroque singers, Kristinn Sigmundsson, Iceland‘s internationally most acclaimed singer, who will interpret the role of Jesus, Danish tenor Valdemar Villadsen, a rising star in the opera world, who sings the part of the Evangelist, and several of Iceland‘s best young singers, Elmar Gilbertsson, Oddur Arnþór Jónsson and Hildigunnur Einarsdóttir. The conductor of the concerts, Hörður Áskelsson, organist and Music Director of Hallgrímskirkja, has performed all major choral compositions by Bach to great acclaim. His interpretation of the St Matthew Passion at the 2005 Festival of Sacred Arts in Hallgrímskirkja was said to have been “permeated with a deep sense of love”.
The St Matthew Passion will be performed at Hof Cultural Centre in Akureyri on Maundy Thursday, March 29, at 4pm, and in Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavík on Good Friday, March 30, at 6pm.
The concerts are a joint presentation of Akureyri Culture Society and The Friends of the Arts Society of Hallgrímskirkja. Tickets are available on tix.is and in the church shop in Hallgrímskirkja, open daily 9am – 5pm, tel. 510 1000.