Title - 'J. S. Bach: St. John Passion'
Artist - Apollo's Fire/Baroque Orchestra/Jeannette Sorrell
For those not in the classical know, one of the various contributors to this wondrous J. S. Bach: St. John Passion CD isApollo's Fire. Named for the classical God of music and the sun, Apollo’s Fire was founded in 1992 by the award-winning young harpsichordist and conductor Jeannette Sorrell.
Sorrell envisioned an ensemble dedicated to the baroque ideal that music should evoke the various Affekts or passions in the listeners. Thus, Apollo’s Fire is a collection of creative artists who share Sorrell’s passion for drama and rhetoric.
Indeed, Sorrell is recognized internationally as a leading creative voice among early-music conductors. She has been credited by the U.K.’s BBC Music Magazine for forging “a vibrant, life-affirming approach to the re-making of early music… a seductive vision of musical authenticity.”
Also hailed as “one of the world’s finest Baroque specialists” (St. Louis Dispatch), Sorrell was one of the youngest students ever accepted to the prestigious conducting courses of the Aspen and the Tanglewood music festivals.
Sorrell’s vision for the production of 'J. S. Bach: St. John Passion' sought to bring immediacy and clarity to Bach’s dramatic structure through several means. The “action” (storytelling) scenes take place on a specially lit platform in the center of the orchestra. All of the characters – Jesus, Pilate, Peter, etc. – perform their roles from memory, physically confronting each other on the platform.
The “reflective” arias, in which Bach takes us outside of the story to contemplate what just transpired, are performed at the front of the stage, away from the drama platform. In the extended “mob” scene of the Trial Before Pilate and up through the climactic Condemnation of Jesus, half of the chorus is placed amongst the audience, shouting at Pilate from the aisles.
Ergo, this audio recording from the dramatic production presented in Cleveland and New York, March 2016, brings to life all those sounds, all those emotions as they were originally laid out. Even more enticing is that this very same new 2CD release also includes a deluxe booklet that features extensive photos and an URL link to the video of the live action show.