I took my nephew, a vocal arts student, to see Bach's Passion According to St. John partially so he could experience Boston Symphony and partially to introduce him to choral music – which is some of my favorite. I hadn't been to Symphony Hall since my childhood and was glad to see nothing had changed. One has the sense that generations have passed through the hall in a continuous flow. The leather and wood seats are exactly as I remembered and are probably the same seats my mother sat in when she subscribed in high school. My nephew observed that in his grandmother's day they did not ask her to silence her phone, but otherwise he could imagine her walking through the same gracious halls as we did.

The concert began with an introduction by Maestro Masaaki Suzuki, who dedicated the concert (and every concert he conducts this season) to Japan. He requested a moment of silence in honor of the people of Japan, which was especially appropriate given the devotional nature of the music we were about to hear.

St. John's Passion is the Evangelist's narrative of the betrayal, judgment, crucifixion and death of Jesus, sung in German. Soloists sing the roles of the Evangelist, Jesus, Peter and Pilate, as well as arias. The story is punctuated and illustrated by the chorus. St. John's Passion was intended for liturgical use, where it was divided into two parts. The sermon would be given after Peter's denial, before Jesus was delivered to Pilate. As the people seated in front of us noted, we know how this is going to end.

The chorus sets the tone with the cry, Lord, our ruler, whose glory is magnificent everywhere! Show us through your passion that you, the true son of God, at all times, even in the most lowly state, are glorified! There is an element of doubt in their voices. It is a question, which will be answered in Jesus' responses throughout the piece. The Evangelist begins the story in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus is betrayed by Judas. Jesus is arrested and taken to Annas, where he is questioned by the chief priests. At the same time Peter, who has followed Jesus, denies that he is a disciple. Jesus is then delivered to Pilate, who asks them to take him away and judge him according to their law, as he has found no fault in him. The conversation between Pilate and Jesus (sung by David Kravitz and Hanno Müller-Brachmann, respectively) is underlined and moved forward by chorale and chorus. The chorale parts are the gentle voice of humanity, while the chorus is the incited voice of the mob. Jesus is taken to Golgotha to be crucified, where he chose someone to care for his mother and, in the words of the Evangelist, “bowed his head and passed away.” The Passion ends with Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus taking the body of Jesus and preparing it for burial.

The superlative Boston Symphony Orchestra was wonderful throughout. I was especially taken with the moments in which the music gave a visual sense of the story – for instance, the orchestral earthquake after the crucifixion. I enjoyed watching Maestro Suzuki accompany on harpsichord while conducting and was mesmerized by the sound of a viola da gamba, played by David Morris. The orchestra was also joined by Mark Krall, harpsichord; James David Christie, organ; Richard Svoboda, bassoon; Gregg Henegar, contrabassoon; Martha Babcock, continuo cello; Lawrence Wolfe, continuo bass; Elizabeth Ostling and Ann Bobo, flute; John Ferrillo and Robert Sheena, oboe; and Tamara Smirnova and Alexander Velinzon, violin.

As the Evangelist, Christoph Prégardien was our narrator and guide with excellent diction whose recitatives were particularly enjoyable. He had the air of one who had seen much and was therefore in the position of telling the story impersonally. Soprano Hana Blažíková brought a darkly brooding element to her arias, appropriate to the text. Hanno Müller-Brachmann, who sang the role of Jesus, was a gentle yet authoritative presence well-suited to the message. Contralto Ingeborg Danz was regal in her arias and David Kravitz, who I saw recently in Tod Machover's Death and the Powers, was a strong and compassionate presence as Pilate.

While most of the choral music I've heard recently is jubilant and exultant, Bach's story is dark and meditative. Rather than doing the work for us, this piece piece asks us for our own reflection and redemption. It was a lovely introduction to choral music for my nephew, and a gorgeous meditation for the rest of us. I imagine my nephew will be inspired to take his own children to this same hall in the future.