Notes and Editorial Reviews
The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge and Bach’s St. Matthew Passion? This is not a marriage I would have imagined had a future among the more distinguished reference recordings of the work. But it does. Stephen Cleobury’s masterful management of the many musical details and structural/temporal/ensemble balance challenges is impressive, while the sound of his period-instrument orchestra—the acclaimed Brandenburg Consort—is warmly vibrant and always complementary to the voices, whether chorus or solo singers.
And happily, Cleobury is blessed with a lineup of soloists that in 1994, when this recording was made, was a dream, especially countertenor Michael Chance, at the top of his technical form and vocal beauty. Some listeners may not fully warm to Emma Kirkby’s pointed and poignant soprano, or to bass Michael George’s huge-voiced Jesus (me included), nor will some observers appreciate the somewhat odd-perspective in which the soloists are placed relative to the choir and orchestra—but in the grand scheme of things—and Bach’s St. Matthew is nothing if not a grand scheme(!)—this is terrific singing, playing, and conducting of one of the great and enduring masterpieces.
The sound is a bit of a muddle in the big choral tuttis—thanks to the obstinate acoustics of King’s—but most everything else is just fine. The chorales are marvelously sung, models for how this sort of thing should be done. Bravo to all concerned. Anglicans really can sing Lutheran music!
-- David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com