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Carnegie Hall Live: Golijov's 'St. Mark Passion'

Osvaldo Golijov's St. Mark Passion at Carnegie Hall. (NPR)closemore
Osvaldo Golijov's St. Mark Passion at Carnegie Hall. (NPR)
PERFORMERS
    Although Golijov's St. Mark Passion requires a specialized orchestra of musicians, including Cuban and Brazilian drumming and dancing, it has been performed around the world some three dozen times. (NPR)
    Although Golijov's St. Mark Passion requires a specialized orchestra of musicians, including Cuban and Brazilian drumming and dancing, it has been performed around the world some three dozen times. (NPR)

  • Robert Spano, conductor
  • Orquesta La Pasion (Mikael Ringquist and Gonzalo Grau, leaders)
  • Jessica Rivera, soprano
  • Luciana Souza, vocalist
  • Reynaldo Gonzalez-Fernandez, Afro-Cuban singer and dnacer
  • More than 100 choristers from area high schools and the Songs of Solomon choir sang in the Passion, here representing the angry crowd at Jesus' crucifixion. (For NPR)
    More than 100 choristers from area high schools and the Songs of Solomon choir sang in the Passion, here representing the angry crowd at Jesus' crucifixion. (For NPR)

  • Deraldo Ferreira, capoeirista and berimbau
  • Members of the Schola Cantorum de Venezuela
  • Maria Guinand, chorus director
  • David Rosenmeyer, music supervisor
  • Chorus members of Forest Hill High School, Frank Sinatra School of the Arts and Songs of Solomon
  • Although Robert Spano has conducted Golijov's Passion before — and has made a recording — he says he still feels "totally intimidated" by the diversity of the score. "It was learning a new musical vocabulary," he said. (NPR)
    Although Robert Spano has conducted Golijov's Passion before — and has made a recording — he says he still feels "totally intimidated" by the diversity of the score. "It was learning a new musical vocabulary," he said. (NPR)


Telling the story of Jesus' last days is not just a cornerstone of Christianity, but also of classical music. Just think of Bach's St. Matthew Passion, hailed and championed by everyone from Felix Mendelssohn to Leonard Bernstein. A very modern, multicultural version of that narrative, based on the Gospel of St. Mark, has been hailed as nothing short of a revolution — "as if musical history were starting over," wrote The New Yorker's Alex Ross.

La Pasión según San Marcos (The Passion According to St. Mark) written by the Argentine Jewish composer Osvaldo Golijov reinvents Bach's model in dazzling and deeply thought-provoking ways. In creating what he has called a "Latin American Jesus," Golijov interweaves choral singing and an orchestra with Afro-Cuban dance rhythms, Bahian drums and capoeira dancing from Brazil, and African-inspired call-and-response vocals. He also examines the narrative from a Jewish perspective, combining the Christian gospel with the Lamentations of Jeremiah and the traditional Jewish prayer of mourning called Kaddish, as well as achingly beautiful poetry by 19th-century Galician poet Rosalia de Castro.

In a recent interview I conducted with the composer, he said, "What interests me is not so much religion, as it is the questions that religion is a vehicle for — which are the questions that we all arrive at at some point in our lives." (To hear a bit more of this excerpted interview, click the audio link above.)

Commissioned by the Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart to commemorate the 250th anniversary of J. S. Bach's death in 2000, Osvaldo Golijov's Passion has become without question one of the most popular and critically successful classical works of the 21st century. This Carnegie Hall performance marks the Passion's fourth full staging in New York alone, in addition to many productions across the U.S. and Latin America to London, Rome, Sydney and beyond.

Members of the Forest Hills High School Concert Choir,the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts Concert Choir and Songs of Solomon singing in Golijov's St. Mark Passion. (For NPR)
Members of the Forest Hills High School Concert Choir,the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts Concert Choir and Songs of Solomon singing in Golijov's St. Mark Passion. (For NPR)

For this performance, high school students from across New York City have been working on this piece daily through the school year. They will perform as the chorus, bringing their own experiences and vitality to this transformative piece.

Copyright NPR 2016.

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