Notes and Editorial Reviews
If your contact with Passion music is Bach’s St. John or St. Matthew, you’re in for a shock. This score contains no dynamic markings except in the first and last minutes. The story is told with no dramatic outbursts, no overt drama, no complex rhythms, and the effect is hypnotic and ritualistic rather than theatrical. The role of the Evangelist is taken by a quartet of voices—soprano, alto, tenor, bass—and they are accompanied by, in different groupings, one each of violin, cello, oboe, and bassoon, playing on short note values. Jesus, a bass, is accompanied by organ, and all of his utterances are slow and deliberate. Pilate is a tenor. Given the strictures of tempo and dynamics, you might suspect a lack of involvement, but this is not the
If you don’t know the phenomenon that is Arvo Pärt, this inexpensive, stunning release of what may remain his masterwork will open your ears and heart. Bass Robert Macdonald sings Jesus’ lines with utmost dignity and rich, dark tone; tenor Mark Anderson as Pilate begins sounding puzzled and moves into clean-hands irony as the situation becomes clear. The four voices of the Evangelist are ideally matched and they sing as one; the instrumental soloists are similarly superb. There are problems, though. Tempos tend to be rushed at times, and at others, Pärt's silences can last too long. But I’m nit-picking as one who has known the work only from the Hilliard performance for 15 years; I dare say a newcomer will be bowled over by the work's exquisite austerity in this performance by Tonus Peregrinus. The sonics are superb—spacious, clear, with pure silences and no artificial, “churchy” ambience.
-- Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com [8/2011]
Works on This Recording
St John Passion by Arvo Pärt
Mark Anderson (Tenor),
Robert [Bass Voice] MacDonald (Bass)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1982; Germany
Date of Recording: 2001
Venue: Church of St. Peter and Paul, Dorchester
Length: 61 Minutes 50 Secs.
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