One of the most performed and recorded of Bach's major works, the St. Matthew Passion has been a focal point of concert seasons and festivals around the world for over 150 years. First performed in the late 1720s, it is a drama of epic grandeur, long considered the noblest, most inspired musical treatment of the story of the crucifixion of Christ. Bach set the text, based on two chapters from the Gospel of St. Matthew, using a large ensemble of two choruses, soloists, and two orchestras. The full score is reprinted here from the fine edition prepared by the Bach-Gesellschaft. Although the St. Matthew Passion is often held to be the apotheosis of Lutheran church music, this magnificent oratorio reaches out to its audience in the language, form, and spirit of opera. Richly dramatic and theatrical, following the general form of Baroque opera, it unfolds its deeply moving story in recitatives, ariosos, arias, chorales, and mighty choral movements. This finely produced score offers music lovers the opportunity — at a price far lower than comparable editions — to follow performances score in hand, and to gain a more intimate knowledge of the rich musical textures of this great masterwork.