Podcast: A 19th Century Translation of Bach’s St. John Passion

October 19, 2020

The conductor David Hill talks to ISM faculty members Markus Rathey and Jimmy Taylor about Robert Schumann’s little-known arrangement of Bach’s St. John Passion. We will hear a movement from the work as performed by Yale Schola Cantorum live in Woolsey Hall in 2018. The whole performance is available on the ISM YouTube Channel.


Live performance video of the complete work. Featuring Yale Schola Cantorum with David Hill, conductor, and the Elm City Girls’ Choir. Performed Friday, April 27, 2018 at Yale University’s Woolsey Hall.
Part I
Part II


David Hill has a long and distinguished career as one of Europe’s leading conductors. He has held appointments as chief conductor of the BBC Singers, musical director of The Bach Choir, chief conductor of Southern Sinfonia, music director of Leeds Philharmonic Society, and associate guest conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. He has been awardee an honorary doctorate by the University of Southampton, and Honorary Fellowship of the Royal School of Church Music, and an honorary membership of the Royal Academy of Music. He has a long list of conducting credits and an extensive discography. On the Yale faculty since 2013, he serves as principal conductor of Yale Schola Cantorum, and participates in the training of student choral conductors. | David Hill’s website

Professor Markus Rathey is a specialist in the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, 17th and 18th century music, and the relationship between music, religion, and politics during the Enlightenment. Rathey studied musicology, Protestant theology, and German in Bethel and Münster. He taught at the University of Mainz and the University of Leipzig and was a research fellow at the Bach-Archiv, Leipzig, before joining the Yale faculty in 2003.

Rathey’s two recent books, both published in 2016, explore some of the most important works by Johann Sebastian Bach. His book Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio: Music, Theology, Culture (Oxford University Press 2016) is the first study of this composition in English and it not only sheds new light on Bach’s compositional practice but it also locates the oratorio within the religious and social landscape of eighteenth-century Germany. Rathey’s second recent book is an introduction to Bach’s Major Vocal Works (Yale University Press, 2016). Within the short time since its publication, the book has become a standard work on Bach’s sacred vocal music, praised for its depth but also its accessibility. As one reviewer highlights, it is a prime example for “bringing musicology to the public.” The book also appeared in a Japanese translation in 2017.

Earlier books by Rathey include a study of the Baroque composer Johann Rudolph Ahle, titled Johann Rudolph Ahle (1625-1673). Lebensweg und Schaffen (Eisenach, 1999), focusing on the relationship between compositional practice and the music market in the seventeenth century, and a study of C.P.E. Bach’s compositions for the Militia in Hamburg, Kommunikation und Diskurs: Die Bürgerkapitänsmusiken Carl Philipp Emanuel Bachs (Hildesheim, 2009), which explores the pedagogical function of music within the Patriotism discourse in the second half of the eighteenth century. In 2008 he published an edition of the music-theoretical writings by Johann Georg Ahle (Hildesheim, 2008).

Professor Rathey has published numerous articles on music by Bach, Mozart, Schütz, Buxtehude and their contemporaries in scholarly journals such as Eighteenth-Century Music, Early Music, Early Music History, Journal of Musicological Research, Bach-Jahrbuch, and Schütz-Jahrbuch. He frequently serves as a commentator on J.S. Bach and on the relationship of music and religion for a number of major media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and BBC Radio.

Rathey is president of the American Bach Society and past president of the Forum on Music and Christian Scholarship. He currently serves on the editorial boards of BACH: Journal of the Riemenschneider Bach Institute and the Yale Journal for Music and Religion.

With an extensive repertoire ranging from the medieval period to the twenty-first century, tenor James Taylor devotes much of his career to oratorio and concert literature. As one of the most sought-after Bach tenors of his generation, he has performed and recorded extensively with many of today’s preeminent Bach specialists, including Nicholas Harnoncourt, Philippe Herreweghe, René Jacobs, and Masaaki Suzuki. Since 1993, Taylor has maintained a close relationship with conductor Helmuth Rilling and the International Bach-Academy Stuttgart, performing and teaching master classes worldwide. On several occasions, he has been a juror and consultant for the International Bach-Competition Leipzig. In 2008 he debuted with the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Kurt Masur, singing the role of the Evangelist in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. Taylor’s career as an oratorio specialist has taken him throughout the United States, South America, Japan, Korea, and Israel, and to virtually all the major orchestras and concert halls of Europe. He is particularly proud to have performed Britten’s War Requiem in the Munich Residence on the sixtieth anniversary of the end of World War II. Taylor has recorded extensively on the Hänssler, harmonia mundi, Limestone, Naxos, and ArkivMusik labels. He joined the Yale faculty in 2005 and serves as coordinator for the voice program in Early Music, Art Song, and Oratorio.

Yale Schola Cantorum is a chamber choir that performs sacred music from the sixteenth century to the present day in concert settings and choral services around the world. It is sponsored by Yale Institute of Sacred Music and conducted by David Hill; Masaaki Suzuki is principal guest conductor. Open by audition to students from all departments and professional schools across Yale University, the choir has a special interest in historically informed performance practice, often in collaboration with instrumentalists from Juilliard415.

Schola was founded in 2003 by Simon Carrington. In recent years, the choir has also sung under the direction of internationally renowned conductors Matthew Halls, Simon Halsey, Paul Hillier, Stephen Layton, Sir Neville Marriner, Nicholas McGegan, James O’Donnell, Stefan Parkman, Krzysztof Penderecki, Helmuth Rilling, and Dale Warland. In addition to performing regularly in New Haven and New York, the ensemble records and tours nationally and internationally. Schola’s 2018 recording on the Hyperion label featuring Palestrina’s Missa Confitebor tibi Domine has garnered enthusiastic reviews. A live recording of Heinrich Biber’s 1693 Vesperae longiores ac breviores with Robert Mealy and Yale Collegium Musicum received international acclaim from the early music press, as have subsequent CDs of J. S. Bach’s rarely heard 1725 version of the St. John Passion and Antonio Bertali’s Missa resurrectionis. A recording on the Naxos label of Mendelssohn and Bach Magnificats was released in 2009, and recent years have seen the release of two CDs by Delos Records. Most recently, Hyperion released Schola Cantorum performing a chamber version of the Brahms Requiem; recordings of the music of Roderick Williams and Reena Esmail are forthcoming. On tour, Schola Cantorum has given performances in England, Hungary, France, China, South Korea, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Japan, Singapore, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, India, Spain, and Scandinavia.