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Bach: St Matthew Passion / Müller-brühl, Cologne Co, Et Al

Release Date: 03/21/2006 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8557617   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Raimund NolteMarianne Beate KiellandNico Van der MeelLocky Chung,   ... 
Conductor:  Helmut Müller-Brühl
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne Chamber OrchestraDresden Chamber ChoirCologne Cathedral Boys Choir
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 41 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a very good St. Matthew Passion, with especially solid chorus and orchestral work and excellent sound. Of course, in a work such as this--approaching three hours of music and dependent on the cohesiveness of dozens of sections (arias, recits, and choruses) while maintaining dramatic focus--there are likely to be two or three or more variables that a given listener will find less than ideal. Here, for me, it's the soloists--the Evangelist in particular, whose sharp-edged tenor often becomes unpleasantly piercing, which is unfortunate considering how often he sings. Soprano Claudia Couwenbergh also has her weak moments, mostly insecurity at the upper register, but she has nice moments as well, as in the famous "Blute nur, du Read more liebes Herz", which is confidently, sensitively sung. Alto Marianne Beate Kielland has a rich tone you easily could mistake for a countertenor, and along with tenor Markus Schäfer and bass Hanno Müller-Brachmann offers the most technically assured, intrepretively engaging solo singing. That said, collectively the soloists never attain the level of drama and characterization achieved by their counterparts on the Herreweghe or Klemperer recordings.

And speaking of Klemperer, I've always been partial to his monumental performance, which uniquely captures the gravity and power of the story, creating a sense of occasion like no other version--although I'll also keep Herreweghe's two indispensable recordings right alongside. Here, Müller-Brühl follows the current fashion for swifter tempos and really flies through the opening chorus--and although it's well-sung, the dance-like treatment belies the mood and message of the text and thus misses the point of Bach's masterfully drawn scene, full of anticipation and emotional turmoil.

Beyond this important moment, Müller-Brühl's tempos are apt, the overall tone vibrant, the pacing and flow sensible and engaging as in any of the better performances on disc. As mentioned, the choral work is outstanding--listen to the dynamic expression in Nos. 27a and 27b, for instance--and the orchestra and continuo are first rate. While my first choices for this work remain unchanged, I'd still suggest this newcomer for anyone who wants a very reliable and often exciting budget-priced alternative. Be aware, however, that the full libretto is available only by visiting the Naxos website.

--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Raimund Nolte (Bass Baritone), Marianne Beate Kielland (Alto), Nico Van der Meel (Tenor),
Locky Chung (Bass), Claudia Couwenbergh (Soprano), Markus Schäfer (Tenor),
Hanno Müller-Brachmann (Bass)
Conductor:  Helmut Müller-Brühl
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cologne Chamber Orchestra,  Dresden Chamber Choir,  Cologne Cathedral Boys Choir
Period: Baroque 
Written: Circa 1727; Leipzig, Germany 
Date of Recording: 05/2005 
Venue:  Sendesaal, Deutschland Radio, Cologne 
Length: 161 Minutes 7 Secs. 
Language: German 

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