The Passion According to Four Evangelists
Carole Haber, Gloria Raymond, William Hite, David Murray, The Back Bay Channel
For the modern reader, the word "passion" suggests strong emotion or sexual desire. However, the word derives from Latin -- passio -- and even more distantly, from Greek -- pascho, pathos, pathema -- meaning "to suffer." In this latter sense, it relates to "the passion" -- the gospel narrative of Jesus' suffering and death on the cross as told by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the New Testament.
The challenge of composing a passion in the twentieth century is considerable given the fact that there is no sizable contemporary repertoire in this genre and hence, no prospective models -- only two "recent" works come to mind: Krzysztof Penderecki's St. Luke Passion (1963-65) and Arvo Part's Passio (1973). In these modern passions, as well as those by Bach and other baroque composers, the story is narrated by a single figure, one of the four evangelists. From the beginning, I decided to take a different path in terms of storytelling and musical dramatization. In writing the text, I began with the Revised Standard version of the gospels, and after interweaving the four stories together, I set about the task of "editing" the entire text. I distilled the stories into a poetic form which has been created, not as literature, but as a text to be set to music.
In The Passion According to Four Evangelists I intend every note to be heard simply and directly -- I hope that the power of the story is felt through the starkness and clarity of the musical expression. I am not interested in reflecting trends or fads (the latest "-isms") or relying on historical references -- rather, for each scene, I have strived to compose music which proceeds from the inner core of the narrative. I have tried to convey only the essential -- no more, no less. Beyond that, that story speaks for itself.
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