A voice teacher and early music fan
George Peabody | Planet Earth | 02/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A RE-RELEASE OF AN INSPIRATIONAL 1996 PERFORMANCE OF ST JOHN'S PASSION BY THE KING'S COLLEGE CHOIR AND SIX OUTSTANDING SOLOISTS.
Since the first century the readings of the story of Christ's Passion have been a central part of the liturgy of Holy Week ,and therefore it is no surprise that the "passion" gradually evolved into a distinct musical genre. The outstanding musical and artistic achievement of J.S.Bach(1685-1750)in his passions is that the biblical text remains at the heart of what is expressed in each work. Another notable feature is the large number of chorales by comparison with contemporary passions. He also observes the tradition with respect to the soloists: the Evangelist's narrative always a Tenor and the words of Jesus to a Bass.
The St. John Passion was originally performed in Holy Week 1724. The fact that it is in two parts is because the sermon would have been preached in between them. Although the two passions by J.S. Bach belong to the same tradition, there are important differences between them. Compared to the St. Matthew Passion, with its numerous lyrical arias and ariosos and its integrated tonal scheme,the St.John Passion is more dramatic, with its trial scenes, and in some respects more audacious too.
Cleobury tends to use a slightly faster tempo than some of the other recordings of this Passion, and in fact attacks the music with power and passion.
The soloists are superb beginning with soprano: Catherine Bott, although far from harsh, sings with a cutting edge which suits the overall approach. Countertenor Michael Chance's lovely legato singing (truly a Bach master interpreter) is especially profound in his aria 'Von den Strikkenmeiner Sunder', and is completely in sync with the others. John Mark Ainsley is a faultless Evangelist who throughout emphasizes the dramatic! He is particularly at his best in the powerful recitative 'Barabas aber war ein Morder' with its startling triplets and double dotted bass line. I continually marvel at Steven Varcoe's excellent diction and clear bass tonality. Paul Agnew carries off his arias with much intensity and emotion.
The King's College Choir with their pure sounding boy sopranos and their velvet toned male altos balanced by an excellent group of tenors and basses provide some exciting choruses.
If you prefer the all male choir and the modern approach to Bach in period instruments, this recording will no doubt be your preference.
As with most Brilliant CD's and DVD's there are no liner notes, only a listing of the selections on the recording. Since I was quite familiar with this work, as I am sure many of you are also, it really didn't bother me. There is also a matching CD."
The many faces of Johannes??
Giles Bernard J. Hall | Tasmania; Australia | 10/12/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I use the many faces of Johannes, to bring to the attention to the public that Bach made many alterations to this Oratorio, in fact 4 and a half to be precise. He first wrote in it 1724, revised it in 1725 and again in 1730 and yet again in 1749. Then he went on to re-edit the 1739 version, breaking off after section 10, leaving it incomplete. I believe it was eventually finished by one of his pupils and this is the most preferred version for performing/recording.
As far as I know this is the first DVD performance of the 1725 version.
I also have a DVD of what I think is the 1739 re-edited version,(they don't say) by a Japanese Ensemble and what a performance that is; with Gerd Tuerch; Stephan MacLeod; Chiyuki Urano; Miduri Suzuki & Robin Blaze (Soloists) plus the Choir & Orchestra of the Bach Collegium, Japan, conducted by Masaaki Suzuki on EuroArts. 116 mins.
I also have the Harnoncourt recording on CD which goes for 116.53 mins.& this one @ 115 mins.
Which bring me to the point of the previous reviewer; where is the 2 hours 45 minutes; as I cannot find it. I have the full orchestral score of the 1749 version & it is complete at 116 mins. Now back to this recording:
The quality of sound & image is impeccable. All the male solo voices are excellent and to that point Catherine Bott's voice was not too bad either. Her diction was great, she was on the notes and her tone was quite mellow. I found her performance quite enjoyable. As far as I am concerned she was given a role and she delivered it.
Of course you cannot go past the King's College Choir, Cambridge. I have long been a fan of them since they first started recording under Wilcox and Stephen Cleobury has just as tight a rein. The Brandenburg Consort gave their all, an excellent ensemble. I do love baroque music played on original instruments rather than the modern instruments of today. This is a highly recommended performance. Remember music IS personal, so in the end you have to be the judge of what you like or dislike. The idea of these critiques is hopefully, assist you in obtaining a performance you will be ecstatic about. One piece of advise I tell people, is to go with the gut; because that gut feeling is NEVER wrong. Good luck & Enjoy!!!