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Notes and Editorial Reviews
When it comes to the big Baroque choral works you can count on Ton Koopman to deliver an extraordinarily fine show--indeed, his 1983 live recording of Handel's Messiah for Erato remains one of that work's exemplars--and in this concert performance from the Netherlands in March, 2005, he again brings together his Amsterdam Baroque forces for what turns out to be a very respectable, thoroughly engaging, often scintillating, and, considering all the musical and dramatic variables in a work of this size and structure, remarkably smooth and cohesive St. Matthew Passion. Tempos and transitions, so crucial to a performance's success, are expertly managed, as the recitatives, arias, and choruses fairly zip along, never allowing us to even entertain
an idle thought.
But this enlivening pace also has its dramatic drawbacks--as in the rather expressionless "Erbarme dich" (where is the sensation of sadness? where are the tears?) and in the disappointingly unmoving moment when Jesus "gives up his spirit". Nevertheless, the bright and powerful moments are many--the solo singing is very fine (Koopman uses a female alto rather than countertenor), the chorus is glorious in the chorales, electrifying in the crowd scenes, and grand in the big opening and closing movements, and Koopman's orchestra is typically polished and stylistically articulate.
At first I was bothered by the sound, which seemed way too close, everyone on top of each other, the chorus overpowering the orchestra, the orchestra overpowering the chorus; but after 10 minutes or so, these concerns vanished into the excitement of the performance--and you really do feel the live, vibrant energy of the occasion, which adds to the attractiveness of this set. This is an easy recommendation, a worthy addition to any collection, and one that will stand up to repeated hearings and careful comparisons.
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Jörg Dürmüller (Tenor),
Ekkehard Abele (Baritone),
Cornelia Samuelis (Soprano),
Bogna Bartosz (Alto),
Paul Agnew (Tenor),
Klaus Mertens (Bass)
Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra,
Amsterdam Baroque Choir,
Cappella Breda Boys
Written: Circa 1727; Leipzig, Germany
Venue: Live St. Joris Church, Amersfoort, Netherland
Notes: St. Joris Church, Amersfoort, Netherlands (03/22/2005 - 03/23/2005)
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Koopman's St Mathew Passion by Bach September 24, 2013
By Richard T. (Auckland, New Zealand) See All My Reviews
"I heard and saw a similar production on YouTube. I felt I should obtain a CD. I know people often 'get around this' but for various reasons this was what I wanted. Koopman and his fellow Dutch performers are clearly passionate, greatly talented, and highly experienced. This particular music can easily be ruined by a poor performance. I found the choral rendition in this music simply exquisite. I think I prefer the idea of this work to the St.John's Passion, but it seems that, while I was a teenager I preferred the dramatic and romantic power of Beethoven and other Romantics or Classical and also 'contemporary' music (while my father then about my age then) preferred Bach; nowadays for me the depth of Bach's choral music holds me. I also prefer NOT to know what the 'lyrics' (musicians rarely use good poetry) - but in any case it is the very fact I have no real idea (I have more now as an adult) seems to enhance the music's effect. Strange also, as from the view of a non-musician, it is difficult for me to see what is so 'great' about Bach. He was no innovator in overall style, in many ways (I agree in the main with Glenn Gould on this) he is fascinated not "in getting through to the end" but in the 'eternal flow' of the music. The effect, to myself, a poet, reminds me of the effect of the lines by T. S. Eliot of the Chinese jar that 'still moves perpetually in its own stillness'... (Or to that effect, I quote from memory.)"