Great gifts

By LLOYD SCHWARTZ  |  March 12, 2008

Tormented obbligato oboes surrounded mezzo-soprano Pamela Dellal’s aria about the paradoxes of sin and redemption (“Von den Stricken meiner Sünden” — “From the knots of my sins”). Gently flowing flutes (Jacqueline DeVoe and Peggy Freidland) helped liberate nightingale-voiced soprano Kristen Watson in her aria about following Jesus with happy steps. Michael Sponseller’s organ mirrored bass Sumner Thompson’s rushing us to Golgotha. Laura Jeppesen’s gamba consoled mezzo-soprano Krista River’s depiction of the crucifixion; Raphael Popper-Kaizer’s cello reflected Aaron Engebreth’s poignant questioning of whether the crucifixion has freed him from death; and flute, oboe, and organ wept along with soprano Kendra Colton’s “Zerfließe, mein Herz” (“Dissolve, my heart”). Sweet and/or powerful arias came from tenors Frank Kelley and Jason McStoots and bass Mark McSweeney, and there was eloquent accompaniment by Olav Chris Henriksen (lute) and the entire orchestra.

Before the conventional final chorale comes the great chorus “Ruht wohl” (“Rest well”), a prayer both to and for the crucified Jesus — a moment of the calmest serenity, really a lullaby, and the true resolution of this Passion. This was what Bach was leading to, the most cherishable moment in the St. John Passion and, for us, the moment to cherish most.

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