The St John Passion was written during Bach’s first year as director of church music in Leipzig and first performed in 1724, at Good Friday vespers at the St Nicholas Church.
The piece falls in two halves probably intended to flank a sermon. The libretto narrates the story of the passion as told in the St John gospel. The emotional impact is enhanced by a series of arias which reflect on the story. A series of chorales and choruses add to the drama,
Bach revised the piece in 1725, 1730, and 1749, adding several movements, and some of this material subsequently appeared in the St Matthew Passion.