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Bach: St. John Passion / Bruggen, Schafer, Sampson, Chance, Beekman, Kooij

Release Date: 04/26/2011 
Label:  Glossa   Catalog #: 921113   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Marcel BeekmanCarolyn SampsonThomas OliemansMarkus Schäfer,   ... 
Conductor:  Frans Brüggen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra of the 18th CenturyCapella Amsterdam
Number of Discs: 2 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BACH Saint John Passion Frans Brüggen, cond; Markus Schäfer ( Evangelist ); Thomas Oliemans ( Jesus ); Carolyn Sampson (sop); Michael Chance (ct); Marcel Beckman (ten); Peter Kooij (bs); Cappella Amsterdam; O of the 18th Century (period instruments) GLOSSA GCD 921113 (2 CDs: 111: 15 Text and Translation)

The Read more style="font-style:italic">Saint John Passion was a work in progress throughout Bach’s tenure in Leipzig. He composed it for his first Good Friday there in 1724 and revised it three times, the last one in 1749 when he restored much that he had changed in the first two revisions. There is really no definitive edition of the Saint John Passion , and, according to Glossa’s notes, “the version presented here … largely corresponds to the version of 1724”—probably the most common option. In this era of minimalist Bach performances, Brüggen’s ensemble almost qualifies as large: There are the six essential soloists, 24 singers in the chorus, and an orchestra of 33, including a string component of 6-6-4-3-2, not counting two violas d’amore and one viola da gamba. The continuo trio is a cello, a small organ, and a theorbo, which is prominently used.

Brüggen opens with a brooding and relentless but beautifully shaped chorus, a sign of the good things to come. The Gospel narrative ensues, with Evangelist Markus Schäfer in full dramatic mode. Throughout the story the Jesus of Thomas Oliemans is a tower of strength. The chorus, very active in Saint John , has a nicely blended, full choral sound and sings with impressive precision. Five members of the choir step out to sing the minor roles in the drama. Occasionally they don’t step out quite far enough—an unfortunate consequence of a live performance recording. The soloists, for the most part, are admirable. Therein lies my dilemma. The alto aria, “Es ist vollbracht!,” is the emotional core of the Saint John Passion . Jesus has gone to the cross to atone for the sins of all humankind. He is dead; it is finished. This is the essence of Good Friday. I was taken aback by Michael Chance’s overly interpreted rendition of the aria. I’ve listened to it multiple times, and I just don’t want to hear it again. I’m not offended by it as I am by all too many “improvements” to The Star Spangled Banner at ball games. I can put aside the so-called singing of the National Anthem and still enjoy a ball game. Can I really ignore “Es ist vollbracht!” and still experience the Saint John Passion in a meaningful way? The good stuff promised by the majestic opening chorus is still there. Brüggen tells the story, directly and compassionately. And I can’t rule out the possibility that you may like the way that Michael Chance sings “Es ist vollbracht!” Your move.

FANFARE: George Chien
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Works on This Recording

Saint John Passion, BWV 245 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Marcel Beekman (Tenor), Carolyn Sampson (Soprano), Thomas Oliemans (Baritone),
Markus Schäfer (Tenor), Michael Chance (Countertenor), Peter Kooy (Bass)
Conductor:  Frans Brüggen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra of the 18th Century,  Capella Amsterdam
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1724; Leipzig, Germany 
Date of Recording: April, 2010 
Venue:  Leiden Stadsgehoorzaal, Netherlands 

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