For this Easter weekend, you can stream the Good Friday performance of Scottish composer James MacMillan’s St. Luke Passion from King’s College, Cambridge (the compose conducts).
In a recent interview with Boosey & Hawkes, MacMillan speaks about the work:
I’ve always enjoyed a fruitful fascination with the Passion story, and there are deep reasons through history why artists and composers have been attracted to it, right up to our own times. The story is compelling and the images are powerful, prompting a variety of responses. Each time I return to it I try and find different perspectives. Some works are purely instrumental reflections following Haydn’s example, such as my Fourteen Little Pictures for piano trio, or the Triduum of orchestral works written in the mid-90s. Others follow more familiar formats with choir, such as the Seven Last Words from the Cross or the St John Passion.
As to why he chose the narrative found in Luke’s gospel:
My setting of the St John Passion took a particular approach, examining the human drama, and was almost operatic in impact. So returning after a five-year interval I wanted to take an alternative direction. St John stands apart from the other three so-called synoptic Gospel writers who share structure and common material and, of those three, St Luke has a special appeal for me. As well as relating Christ’s life and teachings, Luke is concerned with the idea of the Kingdom of God which points forward to the same author’s Acts of the Apostles. This started me thinking about a more spiritual, inward, and pared-back approach to create a focused work about an hour long.
Meanwhile, here is the incomparable Jordi Savall conducting Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (featuring Le Concert des Nations at the Palau de la Música Catalana, Barcelona).
Not to be missed, even if not specifically Holy Week-related: Bach’s Mass in B minor from Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s recent tour with the English Baroque Soloists and Monteverdi Choir (which included a stop at the Lucerne Easter Festival; this performance is from the Paris Philharmonie.
For good measure, here’s Johann’s son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s cantata on the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus, Wq240:
The culmination of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (“Resurrection”), a composition tailor-made for Leonard Bernstein:
Finally, from John Adams’s The Gospel According to the Other Mary (Act 2, scene 5 (“Burial/Spring – Mary Awakens on the Third Morning”):