Bach: Johannes Passion / Sigiswald Kuijken, La Petite Bande

Release Date: 3/2/2012
Label: Challenge
Catalog Number: CC72545
Conductor: Sigiswald Kuijken
Number of Discs: 2

Physical Format:

Notes and Editorial Reviews

BACH Saint John Passion Sigiswald Kuijken (cond); Christoph Genz (Evangelist); Jens Harmann (Jesus); Gerlinde Sämann (sop); Petra Noskaiová (mez); La Petite Bande (period instruments) CHALLENGE CC72545 (2 SACDs: 105:04 Text, no Translation)

Sigiswald Kuijken here presents the original version of the Saint John Passion , noting that it remains the most popular of the four versions that Bach himself performed during his tenure in Leipzig. Kuijken is a stanch believer in the one-to-a-part mode of Bach performance, and he has made this recording with a minimal ensemble of four vocal soloists—singing character parts as well as recitatives and arias, four ripieno singers, seven string players, two flutes, two oboes, a lute, and an organ. Incidentally, the company is 14 percent Kuijken’s: Marie as ripieno soprano, Sara on second violin and viola d’amore, and Sigiswald, the first violinst, gambist, and violist d’amore, as well as conductor. His is not the first chamber recording of Saint John , but it is the most satisfying. Some minimal performances have been successful in most respects, but a little light in the two great choruses. That’s not the case here; the choruses are satisfyingly rich, which I attribute to his superlative vocal group. Mature female voices—soloists and ripienists—contribute substantially to the richness. We can be thankful that Kuijken has chosen to depart from historical verisimilitude with regard to gender.

Kuijken lays out the story dramatically, thanks in no small part to Christoph Genz’s excellent Evangelist and Jens Harmann’s noble Jesus. Kuijken’s penchant for brisk tempos surfaces from time to time, as in the aria “Ich folge dir gleichfalls” in Part 1, which left me—but assuredly not soprano Gerlinde Sämann—a little short of breath. Sämann is given more slack in her Part 2 aria “Zerfließe, mein Herze,” to good effect. Alto Petra Noskaiová is splendid as well, especially in the signature aria “Es ist vollbracht,” where her elegant singing is partnered by Kuijken’s poignant gamba. Haste is not an issue in the great final chorus “Ruht wohl,” which is sung with appropriate dignity.

Collectors acquiring their first Saint John Passion should be aware that the German text is not translated. That the booklet fails to identify who sings the various arias and recitatives, either by name or by part, is a minor annoyance. Nevertheless, Kuijken’s Saint John Passion is a splendid achievement, enthusiastically recommended.

FANFARE: George Chien
Works on This Recording
1. Saint John Passion, BWV 245 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Conductor: Sigiswald Kuijken
Period: Baroque
Written: 1724 ; Leipzig, Germany
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