WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Johann Sebastian Bach: Passio Secundum Johannem

Bach,J.s. / La Chapelle Rhenane / Haller
Release Date: 05/11/2010 
Label:  Zig Zag   Catalog #: 100301   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Dominik WörnerJulian PrégardienBenoît Arnould
Conductor:  Benoit Haller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Chapelle Rhénane
Number of Discs: 2 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

BACH Saint John Passion Benoît Haller, cond; Julian Prégardien ( Evangelist ); Benoît Arnould ( Jesus ); Dominik Wörner ( Peter, Pilate ); La Chapelle Rhénane (period instruments) ZIG-ZAG TERRITOIRES ZZT 100301.2 (2 CDs: 115:55 Text and Translation)

The Read more style="font-style:italic">Saint John Passion has a story to tell, and Benoît Haller’s fine Evangelist, Julian Prégardien, is an expert storyteller. But, of course, Bach’s Passion is more than just a story; it’s a profound meditation, which is where Haller and his Chapelle Rhénane come to the fore. This is a small-scaled production. La Chapelle Rhénane is a double quartet of singers (two sopranos, two countertenors, two tenors, two baritones), backed by a period-instrument chamber orchestra. The singers form the chorus, but also step forward to share not only the arias but also the dramatic roles (Jesus, Peter, Pilate, etc.). Haller guides them, from the foreboding opening chorus, “Herr, unser Herrscher,” through the fraught crowd scenes to the poignant resignation of the final chorus, “Ruht wohl,” and the concluding chorale, in a performance that is intensely emotional and dramatic.

Bach performed Saint John at least four times in Leipzig, tinkering with the score each time. The final version, dating from 1747, has come to be accepted as the definitive one, but Haller has chosen to substitute three rarely heard arias (with some adjoining narrative passages) from the 1725 version: “Himmel, reisse Welt” for bass and “Zerchmettet mich” for tenor, for the commonly heard tenor aria “Ach, mein Sinn” in part I and “Ach windet euch nicht so” also for tenor, for the bass arioso “Betrachte, mein Seel” and the tenor aria “Erwäge, wie sein blutgefürbter Rücken” in part II. More disorienting to me was Haller’s interpolation of a five-and-a-half-minute choral movement, “Christe, du Lamm Gottes,” after “Ruht wohl.” The chorale “Ach Herr, laß dein lieb Engelein,” the anticipated conclusion of the piece, follows after a 23-second pause. It is not included in the printed libretto and, even more puzzlingly, not separately banded. There’s no explanation for the interpolated chorus, the pause, or the curious treatment of “Ach Herr.” I’m speculating here, but I suspect that Haller intended the performance to end with “Christe, du Lamm Gottes,” and that “Ach Herr” was inserted as an afterthought to mollify listeners who might be upset by its absence.

Incidentally, in my research I came upon Herreweghe’s justification for having a female alto sing Saint John’s signature aria, “Es ist vollbracht.” Its “nocturnal affliction,” he said, is better expressed by the alto’s full-voiced, low range than the countertenor’s falsetto. Without in any way dismissing Pascal Bertin’s worthy effort here, I tend to agree.

Curious listeners may welcome the opportunity to sample the alternate arias that they will not hear in versions by Gardiner, Harnoncourt, and Herreweghe. It’s surprising as well that that feature is not mentioned on the cover of the package. Haller’s performance is highly satisfying on its own merits though probably not a first Saint John Passion for most listeners.

FANFARE: George Chien
Read less

Works on This Recording

Saint John Passion, BWV 245 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Dominik Wörner (Bass Baritone), Julian Prégardien (Tenor), Benoît Arnould (Baritone)
Conductor:  Benoit Haller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Chapelle Rhénane
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1724; Leipzig, Germany 

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title