Leading the Washington Bach Consort Chorus and Orchestra and the Washington Cathedral boys choir, conductor Reilly Lewis presented a St. Matthew Passion of exceptional interest in the Cathedral yesterday afternoon.

The total forces, including the double choirs and orchestras, added up to just over 100 participants, considerably less than the massive numbers often used and much closer to the resources Bach himself used. The resultant gain in clarity, particularly in the more complex passages, made for rewarding listening.

Lewis had the total work well in hand, propelling the music along with a crisp rhythmic sense. He showed a special gift for bringing out the orchestral lines in which the meaning of the text was often embodied. He kept the sound of the chorus which sang with exceptional intelligence and musicality, light and almost transparent.

Aiding Lewis was a fine group of soloists who sang with considerable perception. Tenor Lawrence Jordan made a sensitive evangelist and bass John Vroom brought a quiet, inner intensity to the part of Jesus. The subtlety of James McDonald's phrasing was a joy, tenor Stanley Cornett projected with a rich sound, and alto Rose Taylor handled her part with polish. Among strong contributions from the orchestra was a moving solo by violinist Jody Gatwood.