Notes and Editorial Reviews
The evidence is fragmentary yet reasonably convincing that an early version of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion was performed in Leipzig in 1727, two years before the previously accepted first-performance (and nine years before the 1736 revision that we usually hear today). The original score is lost, although a copy made in the 1750s by Johann Christoph Farlau was apparently taken from Bach’s first version, and that is the basis for the edition used for this recording, published by Andreas Glöckner for the Neue Bach-Ausgabe in 2004.
Not that most listeners will notice anything radically different among the extensive progression of choruses, chorales, recits, and arias; one of the more significant changes in the later version
was the replacement of a simple chorale at the end of Part 1 with an extended chorale fantasia, which actually had a former life 11 years earlier as the opening movement of the St. John Passion. But the essence—the grand-scale musical magnificence, the dramatic force and emotional power— of this work was there from its inception, and remains today.
Nothing could make more sense than a recording of this work by the Leipzig Thomanerchor, but I’ve heard some fairly recent recordings by this choir that haven’t impressed me at all—the boys’ voices just anemic-sounding, thin, strained—as often the case, not helped by flimsy recorded sound. Not here—the choir is full-bodied, the treble voices strong and up to the task. Too bad the Evangelist isn’t ideal (a sometimes strained-sounding and dramatically understated Martin Petzold), but overall this is quite impressive—a good reading that was actually recorded in the Thomaskirche (unlike those aforementioned recordings)—and one that maintains the requisite dramatic energy and momentum along with really fine orchestral and choral work. Would that Bach had had the Gewandhaus at his disposal! What miracles would have come from that?! I was pleasantly surprised by this production—on a label I’d never heard of—Rondeau Production—but that apparently has produced more recordings from these forces and from many others. For Bach collectors this is a sound acquisition on several levels. If you’re new to this work, I’d first suggest one of the reference recordings—but don’t forget about this one for later rounding out your library.
Works on This Recording
Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244b (BC D3a) by Johann Sebastian Bach
Jean Philipp Chey (Boy Soprano),
Frieder Bohme (Boy Soprano),
Florian Knaack (Boy Soprano),
Christian Koppelt (Boy Soprano),
Tobian Rommel (Boy Soprano),
Paul Stammkotter (Boy Soprano),
Michael Schmucker (Boy Soprano),
Maximilian Hohmann (Boy Soprano),
Max Borner (Boy Soprano),
Lorenz Blattert (Boy Soprano),
Georg Schutze (Boy Soprano)
Georg Christoph Biller
Venue: Thomaskirche Leipzig
Length: 8 Minutes 10 Secs.
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