Premiered in 1727, Bach’s most famous work sets chapters 26 and 27 of the Gospel of Matthew (the Last Supper and Crucifixion of Christ) to music. It forms a grand and dramatic choral piece, full of intricate details and intense call-and-response vocals. Whether experienced in an intimate church space or performed in the city’s best concert halls with grand orchestras and huge choirs, this music typically has a real emotional impact on classical music fans – Christian or not – and is now utterly engrained in Western culture.
Of course, as with any piece of music that’s been around for almost 300 years, Passion performances are very rarely the same. This year in Amsterdam you’ll find a variety of interpretations, ranging from the most traditional versions in the Royal Concertgebouw through to contemporary reworkings in Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ. Other seasonal works, such as Bach’s St John Passion, which is perhaps even more extravagant, will receive stagings. And modern composers continue to bring new ideas to the table, too.