The English-language US premiere of the St. Matthew Passion by the renowned Russian Orthodox composer and churchman, His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion [Alfeyev], will debut in New York City on February 7, 2011.
Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary will host the concert at the Church of Saint Paul the Apostle, 405 West 59 Street, at 7:30 p.m.
[Videos of the Passion, which has received standing ovations from huge audiences in Moscow, Rome, Melbourne, and Toronto, as well as other compositions by Metropolitan Hilarion, are featured on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsUbmCoMP1Y.]
“Just as J. S. Bach drew church congregations into the drama of Christ’s Passion in his day, so now, Metropolitan Hilarion is offering our post-modern world a corresponding experience with his fresh and original St. Matthew Passion, a profound piece of music that combines Gospel narrative with liturgical texts of the Orthodox Church,” said seminary Chancellor Archpriest Chad Hatfield. “We invite lovers of sacred music to hear this magnificent, inspired work, which not only is beautifully stirring but also is a testament to the Orthodox Christian faith.”
As a prelude to the season of Great Lent, the composition will convey St. Matthew’s Gospel account of the Passion—using scriptural texts interspersed with texts of the liturgical services of the Orthodox Church normally sung during Holy Week—in the forms of music recitative, choruses, fugues, and arias. Maestro Carlo Ponti, Jr. will conduct the performance, with The Salomé Chamber Orchestra, famed soloists soprano Mary Mackenzie, mezzo-soprano Ana Mihanovic, and tenor Timothy Parsons, and the New York Virtuoso Singers, prepared bgy Harold Rosenbaum.
The composer, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, who is Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate Department of External Church Relations and an episcopal member of Board of Trustees of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, will be present at the premiere. His musical expertise and reputation are famed; his musical compositions include the Divine Liturgy (2006) and All-Night Vigil (2006) for a cappella choir; the Christmas Oratorio for soloists, boys choir, mixed choir, and symphony orchestra (2007); and A Song of the Ascent, a choral symphony on the Psalms (2008). He studied composition at Moscow Gnessins School of Music and subsequently at the Moscow State Conservatory. In 1987 he was ordained priest, and since 2002 he has been a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The concert is being funded by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the Saint Gregory the Theologian Charity Foundation, with the cooperative efforts of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York.