Notes and Editorial Reviews
Cantus Cölln under the direction of Konrad Junghänel is one of the most renowned vocal ensembles for Renaissance und Baroque music. Following their long-term partnership with Harmonia Mundi France, the ensemble now presents its first recording for Accent with Bach's St John Passion (further projects are planned). This recording is distinguished through two special features: firstly, the utilisation of the seldom performed late fourth version of the passion dating from 1749 and, secondly, the ideal sound of the soloist vocal ensemble which performs the entire work as a double vocal quartet. This produces not only a vocal brilliance and immaculate solo sections, but also extreme transparency which also extends to the turba choruses and chorale settings - Cantus Cölln employs a wide emotional spectrum in their performance ranging from breathtaking drama to intense ardency. The St John Passion was performed a last time under the direction of the composer in the year prior to his death in 1750 in a version which on the one hand cast a glance back to the notated musical text of the original version dating back to 1724, but simultaneously looked forward to embrace the subsequent tonal developments in aesthetic ideals since the time of its composition. The instrumental ensemble was considerably extended: the harpsichord was added as an accompanying instrument alongside the organ, the bass register was reinforced by a contrabassoon and the woodwind orchestration in several of the turba choruses was reinforced by the strings. Bach undertook extensive alterations to text and timbre in a number of arias, and the movements 2 to 10 diverge in numerous details from the text of the now customarily performed version based on the revised score from 1739. The seldom performed version on this recording will perhaps provide a welcome opportunity to hear this all too familiar work with completely new ears.