Bach's St. Matthew Passion is, like Wagner's Parsifal, a behemoth lurking in purple darkness, an immovable mountain of billowing orchestral sonoroties, inscrutable religious symbology, and interminable vocal filigrees and formalism. Or is it? Two generations of recordings have fought to overturn the image created in Herbert von Karajan's groundbreaking, gorgeously indulgent mid-1960'2 recording, with its massive double orchestra and chorus and star-studded cast (Janowitz, Ludwig, Schreier, Fischer-Dieskau and others).
In this new recording on Archiv, Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli players have offered the polar extreme, adding much to the credibility of recent theories about the small forces Bach employed in his ownRead more performances of the work. There is no gilding the lily; just what the score prescribes: 9 singers, one on a part, and a couple dozen players. The sum is a performance that is both lighter than air and deeply moving. Brisk tempi and crystalline textures do everything to highlight what is, after all, the heart of the work: the biblical text and the artful interpolations by Christian Picander. A buoyant organ continue underpins solo playing that is articulate, imitative of the diction of the singers who, for their part, combine natural vocalism with a reverential but never pedantic faithfulness to Bach's score (this is not Handel; Bach tended to write precisely the ornamentation he wanted rather than leave it to notoriously capricious singers). Across the board, the singers perform with a vibrance that never betrays the dramatic or vocal difficulty of the score. Tenor Mark Padmore, faced with the Herculean role of the Evangelist, is particularly easy on the ears.
McCreesh and company have assembled a marvelously lucid reexamination of that is hands down Bach's tour de force of baroque chiaroscuro: tragic and uplifting, steel and velvet, holy and welcoming, as satisfying as Bohème and requiring nearly as much Kleenex.
Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244by Johann Sebastian Bach Performer:
Deborah York (Soprano),
Julia Gooding (Soprano),
Magdalena Kozená (Mezzo Soprano),
Susan Bickley (Mezzo Soprano),
Mark Padmore (Tenor),
Peter Harvey (Bass),
James Gilchrist (Tenor),
Stephan Loges (Bass)
Period: Baroque Written: Circa 1727; Leipzig, Germany Date of Recording: 04/2002 Length: 161 Minutes 32 Secs. Language: German
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
A Daredevil St. MatthewNovember 28, 2011By Christian Withers (San Antonio, TX)See All My Reviews"I may get into trouble for saying this, but I find many recordings of this work rather dull. However, this is a daringly fast-paced performance with a refreshing and controversial approach to the ensemble (one voice per choral part). It is exciting to hear (something that cannot be said of many St. Matthew's), if not as monumental as the most well-known recordings. For once I was kept on the edge of my seat!"Report Abuse