St. Matthew Passion BWV 244:
Instrumentation: Soprano solo (2), Alto solo (2), Tenor solo (2), Bass solo (2), Mixed choir (SATB) (2), Orchestra (2)
Duration (approx.): 02:40:00
Chorale "Jesum laß ich nicht von mir"
Aria "Komm, süßes Kreuz, so will ich sagen" from Altnickol's copy of the early version BWV 244b
Bachs St. Matthew Passion as we know it today evidently had a long history dating back before 1727. It is unclear whether the work performed at the Thomaskirche , Leipzig on Good Friday 1729 was based on a still earlier version. Whatever the case, the surviving version of 1729 presents the work in a form strikingly different from its later incarnation. For example, the opening section ends with the chorale Jesum lass ich nicht von mir which was replaced by the large-scale cantus firmus chorus O Mensch , bewein dein Sünde gross for the 1736 performance.
The well-known alto aria Ach! Nun ist mein Jesus hin is still assigned to a bass in the earlier version, and the aria Komm süsses Kreuz calls for a lute instead of the later viola da gamba . Moreover, the pieces for double chorus only require a single continuo group. Other differences can be found in the instrumental scoring and voice leading. The early version of the St. Matthew Passion is thus a most interesting addition to the great concert repertoire.