Five passions are attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach, corresponding to his five annual sets of church cantatas. Of these, two have been entirely lost, and the Saint Luke Passion bearing Bach’s name is the work of a Bach student or minor contemporary. This leaves only the Saint John and the Saint Matthew passions, which are two of the supreme glories of Western music. The tradition of reciting the various Gospel accounts of Christ’s passion and death during Holy Week goes back to the 4th century; in the 13th century, this was done in a chantlike style, which gradually became more elaborate and reflective of the musical styles of the day, culminating in the magnificent 18th-century Baroque passions of Bach. The role of the narrator/evangelist has the most singing in the Saint John, and Music of the Baroque has enlisted the services of the incomparable Bach tenor David Gordon for its performances this week. Other singers include soprano Alicia Purcell, mezzosoprano Karen Brunssen, tenor Kurt R. Hansen, baritone Richard Cohn, and bass Myron Myers. Bach passions are especially meaningful under the careful baton of Thomas Wikman, who has a special affinity for and with this beautiful music. Tonight, 7:30 PM, Grace Lutheran Church, 7 300 W. Division, River Forest. Sunday, 3 PM, United Church of Hyde Park, 1448 E. 53rd; 461-9541.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Steven E. Gross.