When Johann Sebastian Bach applied for the position of music director at St. Thomas and St. Nicholas churches in Leipzig, he was far from being the front-runner for the position. The deliberating council really wanted Georg Philip Telemann, who turned down the offer, and then went after three more Baroque big shots. When these, too, fell through, the humble Bach was finally interviewed and hired, although a certain Councilman Platz grumbled that since the best man couldn’t be persuaded to take the job, they would have to make do with a mediocrity. It was this mediocrity who promptly set to work composing what would become one of the greatest works of the sacred choral repertoire, the St. John Passion, which he premiered on his first Good Friday in his new office, on April 7, 1724. This week, Musica Angelica turns the clock back about 400 years, when it performs this magnificent work as Bach originally presented it. “As in Bach’s time,” notes conductor Martin Haselbock, “we are using eight solo singers to perform all the roles, which gives the ensemble parts more intensity than any choir could do.” And intensity is what the St. John Passion is all about. “In contrast to the more reflective St. Matthew Passion,” says Haselbock, “this is the dramatic one, with powerful ensemble scenes and very emotional arias.” Also at First United Methodist Church, 1008 11th St., Santa Monica; Sun., March 28, 4 p.m.; $49 & $55. (310) 458-4504, musicaangelica.org.

Sat., March 27, 8 p.m., 2010

LA Weekly