- St. John Passion (Johannespassion), BWV 245 (BC D2)
- Ecce quomodo moritur iustus
The chief attraction of this collegiate recording is that it highlights a rather rare item in the Bach canon: the 1725 version of the "Johannespassion," or "St. John Passion." In a nutshell, Bach, after a year of working on a giant cantata cycle full of chorales as cantor at the Thomasschule in Leipzig, added chorales to the "St. John Passion" he had composed the year before. The changes begin with the opening chorus: the festive "Herr, unser Herrscher, wie herrlich ist dein Ruhm in allen Landen" (Lord, our master, how magnficent is thy glory in all lands) is replaced by the motet-like "O Mensch, bewein dein Sünder groß" (Human, weep at your great sins). Elsewhere, Bach's sequence of recitatives enacting the biblical drama and arias reflecting upon it is interspersed with plain congregational chorale settings. One can see why the earlier version is more popular: this one makes the chorus fulfill the dual roles of the crowd demanding Christ's crucifixion and the German congregation praying about those events. Some of the starkness of the original is lost. Yet it's worth hearing and pondering this more variegated version, which plays to the strengths of young performers. The soloists here, all students in Yale University's music programs, are all developing singers, and the Yale Collegium Players are challenged in spots. The real star is the 24-member Yale Schola Cantorum, which is impressive intonationally and effortlessly makes the switch betweeen its two modes. Not so effortless is the sound engineering, which imperfectly merges live recordings made in two different locations and leaves audible snips between the movements. Despite occasional rough spots, this recording connects with the drama of one of Bach's greatest works and puts across the unique qualities of its rarely heard variant.