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The Arts Intel Report

A Cultural Compass
For the World Traveler
A Cultural Compass
For the World Traveler

St. John Passion, by James MacMillan

April 5, 2020
Barbican Centre Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS

“In the beginning was the Word.” Gianandrea Noseda conducts the St. John Passion—not of J. S. Bach, as perhaps you were expecting (though Noseda doesn’t give much time to the Baroque), but of the Scottish composer James MacMillan (born 1959), one of the United Kingdom’s best-loved contemporary composers. Rooted in MacMillan’s early experience with Gregorian chant, his Gospel setting also folds in operatic and contemporary influences. A baritone (Marcus Farnsworth) takes Christ’s lines. A chamber choir acts as Narrator, while a large chorus plays the other major characters. Yet the final movement is purely instrumental. In the beginning was the Word, but in the end, all is Music. —M.G.

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