The Passio secundum Johannem or St John Passion
(German: Johannes-Passion), BWV 245, is a Passion or
oratorio by Johann Sebastian Bach, the older of two
surviving Passions by Bach. It was written during
Bach's first year as director of church music in
Leipzig and was first performed on April 7, 1724, at
Good Friday Vespers at the St. Nicholas Church.
The structure of the work falls in two halves, intended
to flank a sermon. The anonymous libretto draws on
existing works (notably Brockes') and is compiled from
recitatives and choruses narrating the Passion of
Christ as told in the Gospel of John, ariosos and arias
reflecting on the action, and chorales using hymn tunes
and texts familiar to a congregation of Bach's
contemporaries. Compared with the St Matthew Passion,
the St John Passion has been described as more
extravagant, with an expressive immediacy, at times
more unbridled and less "finished".
The work is most often heard today in the 1724 version
although Bach revised it in 1725, 1732, and 1749,
adding several numbers. "O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde
groß", a 1725 replacement for the opening chorus, found
a new home in the 1736 St Matthew Passion but several
arias from the revisions are found only in the
appendices to modern editions.
The St John Passion is written for an intimate ensemble
of soloists, four-part choir, strings and basso
continuo and pairs of flauti traversi and oboes, the
latter both doubling on oboe da caccia. For special
colours Bach also used lute, viola d'amore and viola da
gamba, instruments that were already old-fashioned at
the time. In present day performances the part of Jesus
is given to one bass soloist, Pilate and the bass arias
to another. Some tenors sing the Evangelist – a very
demanding part – and the arias. The smaller parts
(Peter, Maid, Servant) are sometimes performed by choir
I created this arrangement of the fourth Aria: "Erwäge,
wie sein blutgefärbter Rücken In allen Stücken"
(Consider, how His blood-stained back in every aspect)
for String Quartet (2 Violins, Viola & Cello).