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Richter/Bach: Matthaus-Passion
Richter/Bach Matthaus-Passion
Actor: Peter Schreier
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2006     3hr 17min


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Movie Details

Actor: Peter Schreier
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Classical
Studio: Deutsche Grammophon
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 04/11/2006
Original Release Date: 01/01/1971
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1971
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 3hr 17min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
Edition: Classical
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: German, English, Spanish, French

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Movie Reviews

Monumental Bach from an ancient tradition
Mike Birman | Brooklyn, New York USA | 04/17/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The great North German choral tradition goes back to the 16th and 17th Centuries; especially noteworthy is the sacred music of Heinrich Schutz, whose compositions included three 'dramatic' unaccompanied Passions, the finest and last of a venerable tradition. Following the premier of his Dafne (the first German opera) in Torgau, Schutz traveled to Venice in 1628. There, he studied at first hand the developments in dramatic music under the guidance of Claudio Monteverdi. Thus, the development of sacred Church music (especially the oratorio), of dramatic music for the theater (the newly created opera) and of a new expressiveness in instrumental music (the polyphonic and concertato styles) are joined in a direct lineage that extends from Italy to northern Germany. Each of these elements found their way into Schutz's late period compositions. His music, largely to German texts, are the embodiment of Luther's attempts to establish the German vernacular as a literary and liturgical language, and exemplifies the Protestant and humanistic concept of musica poetica in perhaps its finest form until Bach.

As the Cantor of the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, Bach was often called upon to arrange performances of Schutz's sacred music. The prolific Bach family was influential in north German music for centuries; Johann Sebastian was thoroughly infused with the spirit of Lutheran sacred music. It is hardly surprising that in 1727 Bach felt compelled to set the somber St. Matthew Passion into a monumental musical edifice rather than face setting the annual Good Friday Passion anew each year. This represented the last major new composition for the Leipzig congregation. The few large sacred pieces of the future, such as the B Minor Mass, are essentially adaptations of music written for other occasions. Bach had wearied of the numerous and protracted struggles with the Leipzig town fathers and it was this slightly embittered but determined Bach who created a composition representing a summing-up of his art. Bach would resort to this creative tactic again. The B minor Mass, the Art of Fugue are other examples of great compendium works. Bach may well have been the first composer with a strongly developed sense of musical historicity, in an era when music was written "for use" and then routinely discarded and quickly forgotten. It is ironic that Bach, himself, was nearly forgotten by history. Only with the 1829 revival of the work in Leipzig by Felix Mendelssohn was the great St. Matthew Passion and its composer removed from limbo.

Unlike Richter's recently released DVD performances of the B Minor Mass and Brandenburg Concertos, this St. Matthew Passion is not a hybrid performance incorporating old and new techniques. Rather, it is firmly in the 19th Century performance tradition. Using massive double choruses (including children), the Munchener Chorbuben and the Munchener Bach-Chor, and the large Munchener Bach-Orchester, Richter creates a "sublime monumentality". The singing style is emotional, even over-wrought, when called for by the text. Violins are liberal in their use of vibrato. Woodwind soloists play with an operatic legato smoothness. Cellos sob expressively. This is really big brawny Bach, reminiscent of Klemperer's classic 1962 EMI recording of the St. Matthew Passion. Tempos are nearly as slow and grand as a live recording I have that was conducted by Furtwangler in the early 1950s. If you are only familiar with the authentic performance style of John Eliot Gardiner's fine 1989 Arkiv recording, for example, this performance will be a musical body blow. Questions of authenticity aside, it is this stately Bach that has the longer history. It is its unflinching theatricality that I find most appealing. This Passion contains the greatest of all human emotions. The music reflects it. I find nothing wrong in embracing Bach's profundity if it is done well. This performance, recorded 15-23 May 1971 in Munich at the Bavaria Atelier, is superb. Therefore, it is well worth your serious consideration. Joining the aforementioned artists are the superb tenor Peter Schreier as the Evangelist, a role he practically owned. Soprano Helen Donath is excellent as is bass Walter Berry. There are no weak links in this cast. Video direction by Hugo Kach is theatrical in a calm, understated way. The film looks and sounds fine in all respects.

This 2 DVD set has a picture format of NTSC shot full screen with a 4:3 aspect ratio. Region code is 0 worldwide. The picture appears digitally remastered and looks fine. Sound formats are LPCM stereo and DTS Digital Surround Sound. Both are clear and spacious with DTS providing ambiance from the rear speakers. Menus are in English. Subtitles are in English, French, Spanish, German and Chinese. Total time of the 2 discs is 197 minutes. There are some extras including DGG promos.

A superb old-style performance. Recommended for those who like big, emotional Bach.

Mike Birman"
A "classic" Bach performance
Michael Nathanson | san jose ca | 04/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Owning 6 LP 5 CD 1 VCR and 3 DVD different performances of this incomprable work, and having listened to the composer's works live at St. Thomas and St. Nikolai churches, gives me a perspective of what, to my mind, comes close to his idea of the nature of this magnum opus and how it should be performed. The ongoing 'debate' about the authenticity of the contemporary love affair with original instrumennts and the virtues of austere cool and "analaytical" performance has no merit.
Rather, the interprative divergence has to do with the conductors' concept of big and extrovert vs. small and introvert point of views. Of comparative interest is the Mengelberg Palm Sunday 1939 live performance at the Concertgebouw and the Lehman 1949 performance at the St. Hedwig's Cathedral. The former extrovert and idiosyncretic the latter austere, personal, dignified, penetrating. This dichotomy between the bombastic and perhaps "catholic" and the austere and decidedly 'Lutheran" has persisted to this day. Richter's interpretation is somewhere in between. He approaches the music on a deep personal and devout level but executes it in a rather bombastic way with instrumental and vocal forces of almost titanic proportions unheard of in Bach's times. Therefore the shear tonal volume belies his understanding of the nature of the narrative and the music. Nevertheless Richter's performance is here to stay, integral to our heritage. The soloists in this recording vary in quality ,the stellar among them are the evangelist par excellance Peter Schrier, the incomprable Walter Berry and a magnificent Julia Hamari. The camera work is very good although the side and from the behind shots of the soloists are pointless.
The sound quality is good. For the consumate Bach lovers this DVD is a must to own."
St. Matthew's Passion
Marge A. Davies | 04/25/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This version of the St. Matthew's Passion, conducted by Karl Richter, is a wonderful performance, Peter Scherier as the evangilist domanates the performance, with his fantasic voice.
The choir and orchestra play perfect together not a flaw can be heard.
I have waited 35 years to hear this performance again, I first saw it on my PBS TV station when I was 12 years old, and never forgot it."
Moving experience
Astrada Rodolfo | Montevideo, URUGUAY | 10/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Being by far no erudite (Electrical Engineer for that matter), my approach to listnening seeks the raw emotional connection whith music, afraid what mandatory distance is required for a more rational critique may deprive me of it.

That said, I was presented last year with an excellent compendium for the Matthaus Passion by a slightly different cast, which can also be found here Bach J.S: Matthaus Passion.
Being now more familiar with major chorals and arias, the experience of not only listening, but suddenly watching faces - only guessed at before - for voices or players, was simply overwhelming. Video added a new blow over an already sensitive substrate, letting me drained and numb.

It may be argued from a more musicaly informed point of view, whether this is the best rendering for the masterwork, whether Richter's approach brings to the forefront the true composer's inspiration, whether the selected cast was the best and so forth.

One may at least rest assured this version's performers meet required credentials, consequently making this - ultimate or not - a first rate work.
Add to this the impeccable misse en scene in the form of a gentle hill, an impossing cross governing the skies, carefully managed lighting, framing, and intimate rendition for the most soul-wrenching arias, for a truly unique visual and listening experience.