Except that he uses sopranos rather than trebles, Gardiner has adopted an 'authentic' approach to this performance of the St John Passion. It is given at low pitch with a 30-piece orchestra of period instruments and a chorus of two dozen; the chamber-organ continuo does not sustain chords in the recitatives (except for some of the words of Jesus); soloists, chorus and orchestra alike insert appoggiaturas at appropriate places. In keeping with the dramatic character of the work—which has fewer interpolated lyrical arias than the St Matthew Passion—Gardiner does everything possible to stress its continuity: recitatives lead effectively into choruses, and the impetus is not allowed to slacken.
The cast of soloists he hasRead more assembled is, without exception, first-rate. Anthony Rolfe Johnson makes an admirable Evangelist, mellifluous or dramatic as the moment demands, Judging the varied pace and timing of recitatives to a nicety, and avoiding self-consciousness or mannerisms; Stephen Varcoe is a young-sounding but dignified Jesus; Cornelius Hauptmann brings character to the role of Pilate and sings the florid aria ''Eilt, ihr angefochtenen Seelen'' with assurance; Michael Chance adds to his fast-growing reputation with a finely controlled ''Es ist vollbracht'', with a vigorous middle section; two sopranos, both with pure boyish voices, take an aria each—Ruth Holton (with a deliciously light flute obbligato) ''Ich folge dir gleichfalls'' and Nancy Argenta (beautifully partnered by flute and oboe de caccia) in ''Zerfliesse, mein Herze''; and a very good tenor, new to me, named Rufus Muller, is untiring in the long and taxing ''Erwage'' aria (in which the gamba line needed to be a little stronger to balance the two viole d'amore).
The chorus singing is splendidly fresh, light (in ''Bist du nicht seiner Junger einer?'') or thrillingly firm-voiced (as in the clamour to crucify Jesus, the thrustful ''Wir haben ein Gesetz'' and the two chromatic crowd outbursts at the start of Part 2); and the orchestral playing is clean, with thoroughly reliable intonation from the baroque wind players. Add very well-balanced recorded sound, and this version of the St John Passion bids fair to become a first choice for the work on records—if, that is, you can accept Gardiner's almost consistently fast speeds. Right from the brisk opening chorus it becomes clear that he has discarded accepted performance traditions for the work and thought it out anew; and one is not surprised to find that overall he lops more than 20 minutes off the normal duration (as exemplified by the Richter/Archiv Produktion recording). The 'scourging' recitative and, particularly, the chorus where the soldiers decide to cast lots for Christ's robe rather than divide it, have never been taken more rapidly. This may be defensible, but to rush through the heart-rending ''Ach, mein Sinn'', crisply clipping its dotted rhythm and forcing the unfortunate Neill Archer to sound breathless, seems to defy the sense of the words. It is quite a relief to find ''Es ist vollbracht'' and the final chorus not being hurried. Certainly so much here is well done that I shall want to return to this performance: perhaps in time I shall get used to Gardiner's unorthodox interpretation.
Saint John Passion, BWV 245by Johann Sebastian Bach Performer:
Gillian Ross (Soprano),
Rufus Müller (Tenor),
Nicholas Robertson (Tenor),
Andrew Murgatroyd (Tenor),
Simon Birchall (Bass),
Ruth Holton (Soprano),
Stephen Varcoe (Bass),
Cornelius Hauptmann (Bass),
Michael Chance (Countertenor),
Nancy Argenta (Soprano),
Neill Archer (Tenor),
Anthony Rolfe Johnson (Tenor)
John Eliot Gardiner
English Baroque Soloists,
Period: Baroque Written: 1724; Leipzig, Germany Date of Recording: 03/1986 Venue: All Saints' Church, Tooting, London Length: 107 Minutes 0 Secs. Language: German
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Beautiful March 25, 2013By Robert Sloop (Wilson, NC)See All My Reviews"I bought this to use in preparation for singing "The St. John Passion" as recommended by our conductor. He rated it as the best recorded version and I agree with him. The soloists were wonderful."Report Abuse