Category Archives: Durham Cathedral Choir

‘A very Durham passion’: St John Passion at Durham Cathedral, in conversation with Pavlo Beznosiuk 

Durham Cathedral Choir and the Avison Ensemble join forces for a performance of Bach’s St John Passion at Durham Cathedral this Sunday, 14 April. We spoke with Pavlo Beznosiuk, leader of the period instrument orchestra for this performance, about the piece and his excitement to perform at Durham Cathedral.

Tickets for this performance are £8-28, available at www.durhamcathedral.co.uk/whats-on/st-john-passion


What does the St John Passion Oratorio consist of and what is it about the piece that makes it so special?

The St John Passion, just like the more-performed and more-famous St Matthew Passion, were special commissions put together for Good Friday. These are large scale works centering around a narrator, the Evangelist, who sings in a form called ‘recitative’ a kind of sung speech. He tells the story of the passion of Christ quite simply, a narrative punctuated by a sequence of choruses, solo arias and chorales, what we might describe today as hymns. The arias are moments slightly outside the narrative where the events are meditated upon. For example the high tenor aria ‘Erwage’ is a sublime piece of music with silvery-toned muted violins and a viola da gamba, but the text describes how the body of Christ, having just been scourged, is literally a mess of blood and torn flesh. Such arias provide a moment for personal contemplation, against a backdrop of utterly sublime music.

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