Cleveland Orchestra takes a serious look at J.S. Bach, anti-Semitism

Posted on: March 3, 2017

“The artistic merits of the Cleveland Orchestra’s ‘St. John Passion’ remain to be determined. Meanwhile, rest assured: It’s already one of the most deeply considered performances in recent memory,” writes Zachary Lewis in Thursday’s (3/2) Plain Dealer (Cleveland). “Where most Cleveland Orchestra programs feature pre-concert lectures, this week’s run of ‘St. John Passion’ at the outset of the Lenten season is preceded by a full-on panel discussion, a public, moderated talk on the issue of anti-Semitism in Bach. On the panel with [Music Director Franz] Welser-Möst will be Michael Marissen, author of ‘Bach and God,’ and Rabbi Roger Klein, associate rabbi at the Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beachwood. There’s plenty to discuss on the topic. Indeed, the negative portrayals of Jews in ‘St. John Passion’ constitute one of several reasons the work is performed less often than the … ‘St. Matthew Passion’ and … Mass in B Minor…. David Rothenberg, chair of the music department at Case Western Reserve University [will moderate] the panel discussion on Sunday, March 5.” Welser-Möst says the St. John Passion “raises serious questions all of us have to face.”

Posted March 3, 2017

Pictured: Franz Welser-Most conducts the Cleveland Orchestra’s October 2014 performance of Bach’s Mass in B Minor, with soprano Joelle Harvey and tenor Nicholas Phan. Photo by Roger Mastroianni