Atlanta Symphony Orchestra music director Robert Spano, whose ties to the BSO go back two decades, returns to lead a work given its United States premiere by the BSO under his direction in 2001-Osvaldo Golijov's La Pasión según San Marcos("The Passion According to St. Mark"). The Jewish, Latin American-raised Golijov was one of four composers from different religious and musical traditions asked to compose a Passion setting to mark the 250th anniversary of Bach's death and the end of the second millennium. Golijov's vibrant, immediate, pan-Latin American approach draws on multiple musical and Christian traditions in presenting this universal narrative. The BSO is joined by a cast of stylistically diverse performers central to the original creation of this remarkable piece.I was there for the Thursday performance. I found that the loud percussion and Latin rhythms were at times a distraction from the actual meaning of the text. Others who are more accustomed to that style of music may find it easier to relate to. But there were definite moments of beauty as well, especially a couple of soprano arias: one as Jesus at the Last Supper and the other as Peter weeping over his betrayal of Jesus. Much is made of the fact that the composer is Jewish, but I saw nothing in the text or the music to give the work the character of "a Jew looks at the Passion according to Mark," except the final piece, which is a setting of an Aramaic translation of the mourner's Kaddish — which is perfectly appropriate at that point, and could even have been thought of by a Christian composer.
Anyway, it seems a straightforward, if spectacular, presentation, in Latin American musical forms, of the St. Mark Passion. The Globe review was more factual than opinionated — certainly finding no real fault. IMO it's worth hearing. It would be very worthwhile to listen to the podcast linked on the BSO performance detail page and to read the program notes in advance. I haven't been able to locate the full text online, but if you can find it, that would also be good to have.
As usual, the performance can be heard over Classical New England, beginning at 8:00 p.m., with preliminary show at 7:00, a rebroadcast/stream on January 20 at 8:00, Boston time, and on demand availability thereafter. Check out their BSO page for a link to another interview with the composer.