St. John Passion

Sundays, July 17 & 24, 3:00 PM


Johann Sebastian Bach

St. John Passion, BWV 245


Part 1 1. Chorus: Herr, unser Herrscher
2a. Recit: Jesus ging mit seinen Jüngern
2b. Chorus: Jesum von Nazareth
2c. Recit: Jesus spricht zu ihnen
2d. Chorus: Jesum von Narareth
2e. Recit: Jesus antwortete
3. Chorale: O große Lieb
4. Recit: Auf daß das Wort erfüllet würde
5. Chorale: Dein Will gescheh, Herr Gott, zugleich
6. Recit: Die Schar aber und der Oberhauptmann
7. Aria: Von den Stricken meiner Sünden
8. Recit: Simon Petrus aber folgete Jesu nach
9. Aria: Ich folge dir gleichfalls
10. Recit: Derselbige Jünger war dem Hohenpriester bekannt
11. Chorale: Wer hat dich so geschlagen
12a. Recit: Und Hannas sandte ihn gebunden
12b. Chorus: Bist du nicht seiner Jünger einer
12c. Recit: Er leugnete aber und sprach
13. Aria: Ach, mein Sinn
14. Chorale: Petrus, der nicht denkt zurück
Part 2 15. Chorale: Christus, der uns selig macht
16a. Recit: Da führeten sie Jesum
16b. Chorus: Wäre dieser nicht ein Übeltäter
16c. Recit: Da sprach Pilatus zu ihnen
16d. Chorus: Wir dürfen niemand töten
16e. Recit: Auf daß erfüllet würde das Wort
17. Chorale: Ach großer König
18a. Recit: Da sprach Pilatus zu ihm
18b. Chorus: Nicht diesen, sondern Barrabam
18c. Recit: Barrabas aber war ein Mörder
19. Arioso: Betrachte, meine Seel
20. Aria: Erwäge, wie sein blutgefärbter Rücken


Artists: Festival Orchestra, Chorale, and Soloists; Clara Rottsolk, soprano; Meg Bragle, mezzo-soprano; Thomas Cooley, tenor; Dashon Burton, bass-baritone; conducted by Andrew Megill


Program Notes

Bach had served as Cantor in Leipzig for barely a year when he unveiled his St. John Passion on Good Friday, 1724 in the Nicolaikirche. Parts of this work may have been composed earlier in Cöthen or even in Weimar, but most of the music was created especially for the occasion. Although musical settings of the Passion had been evolving for centuries, the oratorio Passion — comprised of the biblical texts enhanced by poetic arias and chorales meant to surround the sermon on one of the most important days in the liturgical calendar — was relatively new in Leipzig, having been introduced only a few years earlier. Bach’s Passion settings were the apex of this progression, never to be surpassed. In subsequent performances, Bach made changes and substitutions to the St. John Passion, resulting in four different versions, but the work’s final form in large part conforms to its first.

An unknown librettist (possible Bach himself) drew the biblical text recited by the Evangelist from Luther’s translation of John 18 and 19, and some portions of Matthew. The choruses and arias, which provide commentary and poetic contemplation, have texts taken mainly from the 1712 poem Der für die Sünden der Welt gemarterte und sterbende Jesus (Jesus Tortured and Dying for the Sins of the World) by B. H. Brockes, as well as other sources. Interspersed between the biblical narrative and the poetic commentary are the chorales, meant to embrace the congregation on familiar terms, derived from traditional Lutheran hymnals of previous centuries.

Bach’s only other fully intact Passion setting, the Saint Matthew — on a larger scale and employing greater forces — came three years later, and was the first to be revived a century later thanks to the efforts of Felix Mendelssohn. Both versions of the Passion tell the familiar story but differ in their tone and emphasis. Because of its relative brevity, the action in St. John moves more swiftly, and its text comes across as more visceral, the emotions more raw. A characteristic of the St. John Passion often noted is its apparent anti-Semitic stance: the vicious crowds demanding Jesus’ execution are continually referred to as “The Jews,” whereas Pilate is portrayed as a passive, even reluctant participant. Bach does not soften this perception in his treatment, being faithful to this particular biblical text, but rather dramatizes it to the fullest. It is worth noting, however, that the poetry chosen from more contemporary sources for arias does not support such prejudice.

Part One concerns the betrayal and arrest of Jesus. The opening chorus, Herr, unser Herrscher (Lord, our Master) is a hymn of praise, but in an atmosphere of despair, with continuous, agitated sixteenth notes simmering under oboes clashing like unresolved cries of anguish. The Evangelist begins the story of the Passion in recitative. The other principal sung characters are Jesus, Peter, Pilate, maid, and servant. Jesus is represented with a bass voice, but without the halo of string chords found in Saint Matthew. Even in the recitatives, musical effects are used to heighten the drama. Notice the sharp harmonic turn at the first mention of Judas, and the difference between the simple cadence when Jesus states Ich bins (I am he) and the false sounding Ich bin’s nicht when Peter denies being a disciple. The crowing of the cock is followed by a painful depiction of Peter’s remorse, the words weinete bitterlich (wept bitterly) drawn out with a weirdly unstable, chromatic bass line.

Part One has three contrasting arias: Von den Stricken meiner Sünden (To free me from the bond of my sin), for alto, is musically related to the opening chorus, the cheerful soprano aria Ich folge dir (I follow you), with light footsteps in the bass and musical play on the words schieben (push) and ziehen (pull), and finally the anguished tenor aria Ach, mein Sinn (O my sin) — with jagged rhythms and chromatic harmony already glimpsed in the preceding recitative — reflecting Peter’s guilt.

Part Two, which in Bach’s time would have followed the sermon of the day, concerns the trial of Jesus, his condemnation, and execution. After an introductory chorale and the beginning of Pilate’s interrogation, Bach presents the ensuing events in a sequence of numbers [17-26] as a kind of arch form, with the chorale Durch dein Gefängnis, (Through your imprisonment) as the keystone of the structure and the chorales Ach grosser König (O mighty king) and In meines Herzens Grunde (In my heart’s fundament) serving as outer frames. On either side of the center, there are arias and two sets of corresponding choruses. This structure is, of course, obscured by the increasing drama and intensified emotions. Two of the choruses reflect the savagery of the crowd with the rhythm of the word Kreuzige (Crucify); the other two resemble a minuet (associated with royalty) in an ironic, mocking way: Sei gegrüßet, lieber Jüden könig (Hail, King of the Jews!), and Schreibe nicht: der Jüden König.

Mercurial emotions are inspired by Bach’s rich palette of word painting. After the crowd demands that Barabas the thief, not Jesus, be released, the flagellation is graphically depicted in the continuo, while the Evangelist wildly traces the word geißelte (flogged). In startling contrast, the serene arioso Betrachte, meine Seel (Consider, my soul) follows, with the ethereal sound of two violas d’amore and lute. Then the unique tone color of these instruments is used to an altogether different effect in Erwäge, wie sein blutgefärbter Rücken (Look how his bloodstained back). But even here, the violent imagery is turned around in the middle section, when the tenor sings of a Regenbogen (Rainbow) as the instruments construct a beautiful arch. The aria Eilt, ihr angefochten Selen (Hurry, you tormented souls) contrasts the hastily ascending scales in the solo bass on Flieht (fly) with the uncertainty of the crowd on Wohin? (Where?).

The final events in the Passion then proceed according to prophecy, confirmed by the final words of Jesus on the cross Es ist vollbracht! (It is accomplished!). Throughout, Bach carefully guides the reactions and commentary on the story. Those last words are set simply with four notes, which form the basis for elaboration in a poignant aria for alto solo and viola da gamba obbligato. The choice of that instrument, not normally a part of the orchestra at this time, was not taken lightly; Malcolm Boyd states that the viola da gamba was associated with the “sweetness of death” in Lutheran ideology. Also significant to that faith is the symbolism of the animated middle section in D Major, singing of heroic victory in a key associated with resurrection. That is cut short, returning to Es ist vollbracht, and in another surprise, the singer has the last word.

The moment of Christ’s death is depicted plainly, followed by the comforting bass aria Mein teuer Heiland (My dearest Savior), juxtaposing a relaxed, gigue-like melody and cello line with a softly intoned chorale. The earthquake, borrowed from the text of Saint Matthew, breaks out in the recitative, with aftershocks in the strings in an arioso that sets up the final aria, Zerfliesse, mein Herze (Dissolve, my heart). Sobbing and flowing tears are suggested by the instruments in this dark piece. Its tonality of F Minor, a traditional key of mourning, continues in the following chorale. The final chorus, Ruht wohl (Rest well) is, like its equivalent movement in the Saint Matthew Passion, a grieving lullaby. But in this work, so full of such contrasts that speak to the human condition and need for emotional connection, Bach reaches out a final time to the congregation — that is, to us — offering a chorale of solace and hopeful closure.

All over the world, performances of Bach Passions were cancelled due to safety concerns during the pandemic. More than ever, today’s live performance of the St. John Passion should provide spiritual nourishment for musicians and audiences alike.

—Allen Whear



Minnesota-born tenor Thomas Cooley has established a reputation on both sides of the Atlantic—and beyond—as a singer of great versatility, expressiveness, and virtuosity. Possessing a lyric tenor voice of great flexibility, dynamic range, and precision

Cooley studied at DePauw University, the University of Minnesota and the Richard Strauss Conservatory. He is an Artist in Residence with Chicago’s Music of the Baroque. This season marks Thomas’ 11th in Carmel. Thomas will perform the role of the Evangelist in the St. John Passion.


MEG BRAGLE mezzo-soprano

Mezzo-soprano Meg Bragle returns for her fourth Carmel Bach Festival season as a soloist. She was a Virginia Best Adams fellow in 1999. Widely praised for her musical intelligence and “expressive virtuosity,” Meg hasearned an international reputation as one of today’s most gifted and versatile mezzo-sopranos. She is the recipient of awards and recognition from Symphony Magazine, the American Bach Society, and the Bethlehem Bach Festival. A frequent featured soloist with Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the English Baroque Soloists, she has made four recordings with the group.

Andrew Megill


Andrew Megill


Jul 24 2022


3:00 pm

Starting at



  • Meg Bragle
    Meg Bragle
    Mezzo-soprano Soloist

    Widely praised for her musical intelligence, American mezzo-soprano Meg Bragle is quickly earning an international reputation as one of today’s most gifted and versatile mezzo-sopranos.

    Frequently a featured soloist with Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the English Baroque Soloists, she made her BBC Proms debut with them singing Bach’s Easter and Ascension Oratorios, has performed with them at the Leipzig Bachfest and the Prague Spring, Luzerne, Aldeburgh and Brighton festivals, and has made four recordings with the group including the recently released Bach B Minor Mass.

    Meg has sung in North America and Europe with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Les Violons du Roy, Apollo’s Fire, and the Dunedin Consort. She has also appeared with many symphony orchestras in the US and Canada including the Houston, Indianapolis, Pacific, and Colorado Symphonies; the National Arts Center Orchestra, and a series of concerts with the Calgary Philharmonic including Handel’s Messiah and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.

    Highlights of her 2016/17 season include appearances with Milwaukee Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, American Bach Soloists, Dunedin Consort, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and Early Music Vancouver. Meg also performs this season at the Winter Park, Carmel Bach, and London Baroque Festivals, with Voices of Music, and Catacoustic Consort. Other recent highlights include Bruno Moretti’s Vespro with New York City Ballet, tours of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and Christmas Oratorio with the Netherlands Bach Society and Bach’s Lutheran Masses with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

    Her recent opera roles include Idamante in Mozart’s Idomeneo, Dido and the Sorceress in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Dardano in Handel’s Amadigi, Amastre in Handel’s Serse, Speranza in Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, Ippolita in Cavalli’s Elena, and Elpina in Vivaldi’s La Fida Ninfa.

    In addition to those with the English Baroque Soloists, she has made several recordings with Apollo’s Fire: Mozart’s Requiem (Koch), Handel’s Dixit Dominus and Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne (Avie), and Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine (Avie), and L’Orfeo (Eclectra). Other recordings include Cozzolani’s Vespro della Beata Vergine and Messa Paschale with Magnificat (Musica Omnia), Music of Medieval Love with New York’s Ensemble for Early Music (Ex Cathedra), Toby Twining’s Chrysalid Requiem (Cantaloupe), Anthony Newman’s Requiem (Khaeon World Music) and Copland’s In the Beginning with the late John Scott and the Men and Boy Choir of St. Thomas Fifth Avenue and the Oratorio Singers of Charlotte on their own labels.

  • Clara Rottsolk
    Clara Rottsolk
    Soprano soloist

    A native of Seattle, soprano Clara Rottsolk earned her music degrees at Rice University and Westminster Choir College, and was recognized for musical excellence by the Metropolitan Opera National Council (Northwest Region). She is based in Philadelphia and teaches voice at Swarthmore, Haverford, and Bryn Mawr College. In a repertoire extending from the Renaissance to the contemporary, her solo appearances have taken her across the United States, the Middle East, Japan, and South America. She specializes in historically informed performance practice singing with orchestras and chamber ensembles including American Bach Soloists, Santa Fe Pro Musica, Les Délices, Pacific MusicWorks, the American Classical Orchestra, St. Thomas Church 5th Avenue, Bach Collegium San Diego, Atlanta Baroque, Trinity Wall Street, Seattle Baroque Orchestra, Folger Consort, and ARTEK among others.

  • Thomas Cooley
    Thomas Cooley
    Tenor Soloist

    Minnesota-born tenor Thomas Cooley has established a reputation on both sides of the Atlantic — and beyond — as a singer of great versatility, expressiveness, and virtuosity.

    Possessing a lyric tenor voice of great flexibility, dynamic range, and precision, he has appeared with such conductors as Helmuth Rilling, Donald Runnicles, Osmo Vänskä, Eji Oue, Michael Tilson-Thomas, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Nicholas McGegan, Robert Spano, David Robertson, Carlo Rizzi, Franz Welser-Möst, Manfred Honneck, Michael Schønwandt, Gil Shohat, and Kryzstof Penderecki. His repertoire on the concert stage comprises works such as Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, Berlioz’s Requiem, Nuits d’été and L’enfance du Christ, Haydn’s Seasons, Stravinsky’s Les Noces, Handel’s Messiah, Mendelssohn’s Lobgesang, Kodály’s Psalmus Hungaricus, Honneger’s King David, Mozart’s Requiem, Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, Bernstein’s Candide, and Penderecki’s Credo. He is frequently invited to perform in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a role that has taken him to Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, Germany, Italy, Spain, and throughout the United States. In the Baroque repertoire he is a well-known interpreter of the works of Bach and Handel, most especially in the role of the Evangelist in Bach’s Passions and in the great oratorios of Handel.

    Recent and upcoming appearances of note include Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Milwaukee Symphony; Britten’s War Requiem with the Indianapolis, Atlanta, and Oregon Symphonies; Handel’s Messiah with the Oregon, Houston, and Charlotte Symphonies as well as the Calgary Philharmonic and National Symphony Orchestra; “ Peter Quint” in Britten’s Turn of the Screw with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra; Bob Boles in Britten’s Peter Grimes with the St. Louis Symphony in Carnegie Hall; the title role in Handel’s Samson with the American Classical Orchestra at Alice Tully Hall (Nicholas McGegan conducting); the world premiere of Christopher Theofanidis’ Creation Oratorio with Atlanta Symphony; “Tristan” in Frank Martin’s Le vin herbé with Bergen National Opera; “Crown Prince” in Kevin Puts’ Silent Night with Cincinnati Opera; “Acis” in a new production of Handel’s Acis and Galatea and L’Allegro with the Mark Morris Dance Group; Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with Seattle Symphony and St. John Passion with Pacific Musicworks and the Pittsburgh Symphony; and performances at the Oregon and Carmel Bach Festivals.

    As Artist in Residence with Chicago’s Music of the Baroque, Cooley performs Monteverdi’s Vespers, Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus, and a program of Bach Cantatas this season.

  • Dashon Burton
    Dashon Burton
    Bass-baritone Soloist

    Dashon Burton returns to the Carmel Bach Festival for a fifth season as bass-baritone soloist. The Bronx, New York native was previously a member of the Chorale. Praised for his “nobility and rich tone,” Burton has established a world-wide career in opera, recital, and in many works with orchestra. He is a regular guest with the Cleveland Orchestra and Franz Welser-Möst. Dashon has won prizes from the ARD International Music Competition and the International Vocal Competition in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, and from the Oratorio Society of New York and the Bach Choir of Bethlehem’s Competition for Young American Singers. He graduated from the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music and received his Master of Music degree from Yale University’s Institute of Sacred Music.

    Dashon Burton appears by arrangement with Colbert Artists Management, Inc., 307 Seventh Avenue, Suite 2006, New York NY 10001.
    Forays into more varied repertoire have included his performances of Michael Tippet’s A Child of our Time at Harvard, Barber’s Dover Beach, and Hans Eisler’s Ernste Gesaenge with A Far Cry chamber orchestra in Boston, Copland’s Old American Songs with the Kansas City Symphony, Schubert’s Die Winterreise with string quartet, and performances and recording of Craig Hella Johnson’s Considering Matthew Shepard with the vocal group Conspirare. Last season, he premiered Paul Moravec’s new oratorio, Sanctuary Road, at Carnegie Hall and performed David Lang’s The Little Match Girl Passion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

    Dashon’s 2018/19 season begins with his debut at the Salzburg Festival in Salomé. He sings Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa and with the Cincinnati Symphony, Dvoark’s Stabat Mater with the Houston Symphony, Mozart’s Coronation Mass et al. with Philharmonia Baroque, the C minor Mass with the Grand Rapids Symphony, and the Requiem with the Bethlehem Bach Festival and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. He sings also Haydn’s Creation and the role of Zebul in Handel’s Jeptha, the Verdi Requiem, Moussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death, and returns to the Cleveland Orchestra for a subscription week of Schubert’s Mass in E flat Major in May. December finds him performing with the contemporary vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, of which Dashon is an original member, at Paris’Théatre de la Ville in Peter Sellars’ production of Claude Vivier’s Kopernikus, un ritual de mort.

    Burton returns to Trinity Wall St. for a Baroque recital this season. For his other recitals in Boston and San Francisco, the program is based on his recording Songs of Struggle and Redemption: We Shall Overcome, singled out by the New York Times as “profoundly moving…a beautiful and lovable disc” in its May 2016 Classical Play list.

    Burton’s opera engagements include singing Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte in Dijon and Paris, and the role of Jupiter in Rameau’s Castor and Pollux with Christoph Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques. He has toured Europe in the St. John Passion with Christoph Prégardien’s Le Concert Lorraine, and in Italy with Maasaki Suzuki and the Yale Schola Cantorum in the St. Matthew Passion, a work he also sang on tour in the Netherlands with the NNSO.

    Dashon has won prizes from the ARD international Music Competition and the International Vocal Competition in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, and from the Oratorio Society of New York and the Bach Choir of Bethlehem’s Competition for Young American Singers. He graduated from the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music and received his Master of Music degree from Yale University’s Institute of Sacred Music.

Sunset Center Theater


Sunset Center Theater
San Carlos St between 8th and 10th Ave, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921

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