For Easter Week 2014 what better time to discuss Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. In recent years conductor Simon Rattle and director Peter Sellars have collaborated on performances of both the St. Matthew and the St. John Passions of Bach. What makes these performances fresh and original is the placement of the performers on stage and the interaction between them. Sellars and Rattle see these works as much more than oratorios but something less than operas. Whatever else one can say about them, it is clear that they are dramatic works. Purists will say that the drama is in the music and that movement is both unnecessary and against Bach’s conception. Each listener will have to make up his or her mind about this.
There is no question, however, that Peter Sellars has an inquiring mind and a vivid imagination. In this conversation Peter Sellars is joined by Simon Halsey, the conductor of the Berlin Radio Chorus which also took part in these performances. They are sitting in the home of the Berlin Philharmonic, the Philharmonie. If you are interested in seeing the performances themselves they are available – for a fee – from the BPO’s website, www.digitalconcerthall.com.
Paul E. Robinson