T he St Matthew Passionis the greatest story ever told, by arguably the greatest composer the world’s ever seen. It’s been 33 years since the West Australian Symphony Orchestra performed Bach’s masterpiece. We were discussing how we could collaborate – because I’m very fond of WASO and Principal Conductor Asher Fisch, and they’re very fond of the St George’s Cathedral Consort – and how we could come together for something that was more baroque-y. WASO has used the Consort before, but this is the first formal collaboration. My 2014 edition of the St Matthew Passion, performed at St George’s Cathedral, was really well received, so I thought, let’s bring it out again.
Joseph Nolan. Photo © Russell Barton
It’s quite impossible to put on the whole St Matthew Passion– it’s three hours and 20 minutes, plus you have the congregation singing the chorales, it’s just too much of a massive undertaking. After Bach did it, it wasn’t really picked up again for another hundred years until Mendelssohn did his own version in Berlin. Everyone looked at it and went, “too big, it’s unmanageable.”