Top 5...Settings of the Passion

5. Wolfgang Rihm - Deus Passion (St. Luke Passion)

This modern setting of the St. Luke Passion by German composer Wolfgang Rihm was commissioned in 2000 to mark the 250th anniversary of Bach's death. His settings is Luke's account of the Crucifixion, but assembled from many sources. The eclectic patchwork effect of the 27 short movements creates a beautifully reflective atmosphere. Listen out for his interesting use of woodwind and percussion in this recording.



4. J.S. Bach - St. John Passion

Bach's St. John Passion is made up of different movements - arias for solo singers, chorales (reflective hymns sung by a choir), and recitative - sung text which tells the story. Although he wrote at least four settings of the passion, only two survive. This recording conducted Helmuth Rilling brings out the energy and emotion in the texts.




3. Josef Haydn - Seven Last Words of Christ

Hadyn composed his Seven Last Words of our Savoiur on the Cross to be performed at at Cádiz Cathedral in Spain. He describes the special circumstances of the performance in a preface when the work was published: The walls, windows, and pillars of the church were hung with black cloth, and only one large lamp hanging from the centre of the roof broke the solemn darkness. At midday, the doors were closed and the ceremony began. An atmospheric and reflective work, it is more sober than many of Haydn's other works, but equally beautiful.


2. John Stainer - The Crucifixion

English composer Stainer's The Crucifixion has been one of the most popular works to be performed around Lent and Easter since it was first performed in 1887. The text is an adaptation of the biblical text, written by his friend and colleague W. J. Sparrow Simpson. Stainer himself did not think it was one of his best works, but his strong harmonies and clear word-setting has made it a popular work for choral socities throughout the English-speaking world.



1. J.S. Bach - St. Matthew Passion

Yes it's his second appearance in our Top 5 passions - but it is impossible to ignore Bach's other great setting of the passion! His Matthäuspassion or St. Matthew Passion is a longer and grander work that the St. John Passion, featuring a double choir and double orchestra, as well as soloists. This wonderful album of vintage recordings features Kathleen Ferrier singing the alto arias, including the angst ridden "Buss und Reu" and the beautiful "Erbarme dich" (Have mercy).