Last week’s soloists for Bach’s St. Matthew Passion were not only the same soloists for Saturday’s St. John Passion, they were the chorus too! That meant there were only two singers per part, and the orchestra outnumbered the chorus. Pacific Music Works’ presentation of the St. John Passion was held in the smaller Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya, and was definitely a chamber music performance.
We saw director Stephen Stubbs in the lobby before the concert and had a few minutes to talk with him. Apparently Carl had told him about our visit and sent a packet of programs to him last week so he was not surprised to see us.
Unlike last week’s St. Matthew, the orchestra warmed up and tuned onstage. The room was acoustically much dryer which did not permit the sound to bloom and the orchestra frequently overpowered the eight singers of the chorus. This time, Charles Daniels was the Evangelist whose work was greatly appreciated by the audience, if applause is any measure of success.
As in the St. Matthew, the audience followed the libretto closely as indicated by the rustling of paper as the pages were turned. Unfortunately one of the most beautiful arias, Es ist vollbracht for countertenor and gamba, was marred by the page turn noise.
It was obvious, though, that the city of Seattle is extremely fortunate to have the resources to put on these two Passions only a week apart. According to the program, performances of the Passions are an annual tradition in Europe but in America, a rare occasion. On the other hand, Americans perform Handel’s Messiah every year, but in Europe, it is not done that much.