Notes and Editorial Reviews
Veldhoven employs enough singers to give proper weight and power to the choruses--likewise, his orchestra has both body (essential for the opening chorus, for example) and the nimbleness for virtually any inflective nuance in the recits and arias.
If you're familiar with previous releases in Channel Classics' collaboration with the Museum Catharijneconvent, the "museum of Christian art and culture" in Utrecht--Bach's Christmas Oratorio, St. John Passion, and Mass in B minor--then you know the high-quality production and presentation that those releases represent. And you can be assured of the same with this brand-new St. Matthew Passion, its three CDs accompanied by a
192-page book containing not only background on Bach's music and the details of this performance, but also including beautifully reproduced and annotated artworks from the museum's collection that directly relate to the Passion story.
The key to a successful performance of a work so monumental in length and multi-layered in content lies in the conductor's ability to comprehend the overall structure and then to create and sustain momentum, seamlessly connect the recits, arias, and choruses, manage the balance of orchestra with soloists and chorus while explicating the texts as would a clever, artful storyteller. Needless to say, nearly every performance exhibits some weakness or other, small or large, usually related to pacing or to the shortcomings of a soloist or two.
Jos van Veldhoven, who's proven himself on so many other recordings of major Bach works, including the above-mentioned releases on Channel Classics, makes excellent decisions here, from his choice of performing forces to his execution of tempo in the choruses and chorales and in the styling of the recits, niftily recognizing the work's dramatic power while embracing a reverence for its refined musical elements and spiritual message.
Thankfully, Veldhoven employs enough singers to give proper weight and power to the choruses--likewise, his orchestra has both body (essential for the opening chorus, for example) and the nimbleness for virtually any inflective nuance in the recits and arias. (He explains his decisions regarding the numbers and deployment of singers in the easily readable, informative liner notes.) And he's blessed with a cast of excellent soloists, with special mention to the terrific Evangelist of Gerd Türk and the golden-toned Jesus of Peter Harvey.
From the ominously lilting opening chorus--those interjections ("Sehet--Wen?; Seht ihn--Wie?; Sehet--Was?; Seht--Wohin?) for once really have impact, really mean something--we know that we will be moved--and Veldhoven never lets up, happily, knowingly treating the chorales not as resting places or interludes but as integral facilitators of the action. His chorus, soloists, and orchestra are with him all the way.
The sound--as we have come to expect from Channel Classics--is sumptuous, immediate, present, dynamic, making sensible use of left/right channels (in regular stereo) to place us realistically between the two groups of singers and two instrumental ensembles. I will always love Klemperer's performance of this work--there's musical sustenance in that opening chorus alone (nearly 12 minutes as opposed to this one's 8) to last a lifetime (you haven't lived until you've heard it!); but this exceptionally well balanced, thoughtfully paced reading, vividly brought to life by the performers and recording team, deserves a place among the reference versions. And again, the packaging is stunning and a treat in itself--in all, a collector's dream, a listener's treasure.
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Peter Harvey (Bass),
Amaryllis Dieltiens (Soprano),
Julian Podger (Tenor),
Siri Thornhill (Soprano),
Gerd Türk (Tenor),
Sebastian Noack (Bass)
Jos van Veldhoven
Netherlands Bach Society,
Kampen Boys' Choir
Written: Circa 1727; Leipzig, Germany
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