Bach's music, of all composers, is robust enough to be performed in many different ways and still show its greatness. This recording illustrates that it is the musical genius of the director which is all-important in achieving a great performance, and not whether certain types or numbers of instruments and singers are used. The great German conductor Eugen Jochum clearly knows his Bach as do his orchestra and chorus. These sound to be moderately large, and the Bavarian Radio choir has the strength and skill to cope with Bach's difficult vocal writing, even in the six- and eight-part choruses, and not be swamped by the orchestra. The recording places the choir rather distantly, so not all the words are as clear as they might be, but the balance is otherwise very good and gives the feeling of a live performance.
Genius, and possibly love, is what Jochum brings to this. His tempi are ideal, never dragging, never rushed, and without 19th century mannerisms. Throughout he communicates a sense of happiness, even in the serious parts such as "Crucifixus". I was particularly taken by his marked slowing of the tempo at the words "et incarnatus est" towards the end of the duet "Et in unum Dominum", anticipating the following slow chorus. Real inspiration, even if the purists frown. The soloists are all admirable, and I especially liked Brigitte Fassbänder's "Agnus Dei"; there is something about this aria that brings out the best in singers. Highly recommended.