TOCCATA to feature Bach’s ‘St. Matthew Passion’
Nevada Appeal staff report
RENO — TOCCATA-Tahoe Symphony Orchestra and Chorus presents the sweeping, yet intimate and heart-rending, drama of Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion,” with double orchestra, chorus, and phenomenal vocal soloists. Choose from performances in Reno, Gardnerville, and Incline, from April 13 through 19.
Composed for a Good Friday service in 1729, the “St. Matthew Passion” is by far the finest example of its genre. What sets this work apart? The piece touches on basic human problems — love, hate, betrayal — that remain relevant, and problematic, in our own time. And Bach’s music, with unrivaled variety and breadth, brings the text brilliantly alive and compels the listener to respond.
The “Passion” is an oratorio, meaning unlike an opera, the composer relies on the power of the music alone (no sets or costumes) to create drama. Bach’s attention to musical detail in this task is unsurpassed. While texts on suffering and sacrifice rely on minor and dissonant chords, major keys support the redemption that comes from the sacrifice. Bach “paints” the words with musical patterns: woodwinds play a raindrop-like staccato to depict falling tears, while a musical earthquake follows Jesus’s death on the cross. The words of the Evangelist (the narrator) and the Biblical characters are set as recitatives, with simple accompaniment. But the music Jesus sings is accompanied by “a halo of string sound.”
The text is intensely moving, especially in the chorales and arias, written for this work, that are interposed between the Scriptural passages. When the chorus isn’t a part of the action (an angry crowd, perhaps), it often represents “us,” bringing the listeners in to react to the action or answering questions posed by the preceding texts. The solo arias are Bach’s most deeply personal responses to what’s happening. The most rewarding way to listen to the “Passion” is to follow the text. And don’t expect to be a passive listener: the “Passion” moves the spirit to reflect and to find a way forward.
Tickets are $30 for adults ($40 preferred seating); $25 for seniors; free for youth under 23. Donations of any size are always appreciated: ticket sales don’t fully cover our expenses, and donations help us to continue providing high quality concerts.
Concert schedule is: Saturday, April 13, 4 p.m., Reno — Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, 357 Clay St.; Sunday, April 14, 4 p.m., Gardnerville — Trinity Lutheran Church, 1480 Douglas Ave.; Tuesday, April 12, 7 p.m., Reno — First Methodist Church, 209 W. First St.;
Good Friday, April 19, 7 p.m., Incline Village – St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, 341 Village Blvd.