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J.S. Bach: St. Matthew Passion / The Netherlands Bach Society, Museum Catharijneconvent Hybrid SACD, SACD

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Product details

  • Performer: Amaryllis Dieltiens, Siri Karoline Thornhill, Tim Mead, Matthew White, Gerd Türk, et al.
  • Conductor: Jos van Verdhoven
  • Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Audio CD (18 April 2011)
  • Please Note: Requires SACD-compatible hardware
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Hybrid SACD, SACD
  • Label: Channel Classics
  • ASIN: B004M5BZIU
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 129,877 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244 - Various Performers

Product Description

After the successful collectors item releases of the Christmas Oratorio (2003), St. John Passion (2005) and B minor Mass (2007) performed by the Netherlands Bach Society, Channel Classics now releases a new and very special recording of J.S. Bachs St. Matthew Passion. Once again, the recording has been made in collaboration with the Catharijne convent Museum of Utrecht, so that this edition of the St. Matthew Passion is accompanied by a richly illustrated text book. This enables the listener to experience the Passion both in music and images. The illustrations are drawn from the unique collection of the Catharijneconvent Museum, which possesses the largest collection of liturgical art in the Netherlands. According to conductor Jos van Veldhoven there are reasons enough to look at the score in another way than the traditional symmetrical structure. (...) It could very well be a single choir passion based on hierarchy, rather than equality or symmetry (...) I decided to create a spatial arrangement by having a separate stage for each group of musicians, placed some ten metres apart. Some members of the audience even sat between the two choirs, experiencing the dialogue in a very special manner.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Marcolorenzo TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 12 Mar 2014
The three CD's of this St. Matthew Passion are accompanied by a 192-page book with background on Bach's music and the details of this performance. It also has many reproductions from The Catharijneconvent Museum in Utrecht depicting the passion of Christ, and illustrates the imagery that worshipers from medieval days before Bach's time and up to today would have been familiar with and which would have added to the understanding of the suffering and death of Jesus. There is a good dose of medieval blood and gore in the works depicted of the tortured Passion story of Christ. In addition, ALL THE CHORALS ARE COMPLETELY FAULTY IN THE TRANSLATION INTO ENGLISH (old inadequate translations taken from old DG Archiv recordings were used). Either the translation seems to be of another choral altogether or it is a very free and annoying paraphrase. What a mess of editing in so visually beautiful a booklet!
This performance tells the Passion story in a very gentle and storytelling way. The Choirs are asymmetrical. Choir I is the soloist choir and Choir II, consisting of just 4 soloists is the ripieno choir. It is therefore not the traditional performance of a symmetrical double choir performance. The story is told in Choir I. Choir II reacts or poses questions. Choir I leads, and Choir II interrupts or offers commentary. When the two choirs sing together, Choir II acts as a ripieno group. Only once or twice is there full double choir writing, which according to Veldhoven creates an intensive operatic feeling. The chorales seem not to be just interludes but have a forward moving facilitating action on the story telling and the drama.
There is a very well considered and sustained momentum, with seamlessly connected recitatives, arias, and choruses.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 2 reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Breathtakingly Beautiful--A Top Choice 8 May 2011
By Paul Van de Water - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
The Netherlands Bach Society has been performing the St. Matthew Passion during Holy Week in the Great Church in Naarden since 1921. This fine recording was made during the 2010 performances conducted by the society's director, Jos van Veldhoven.

Bach wrote the St. Matthew Passion for two groups of singers and instrumentalists (Coro I and Coro II--"choir," not "chorus"). In van Veldhoven's view, the two groups are not equal participants. Coro I tells the Biblical story, and Coro II (for the most part) comments on it. When the two sing and play together, Coro II largely doubles Coro I. "Rather than a symmetrical double-choir composition," van Veldhoven says, "the result is a complex, assymetrical single-choir Passion." This understanding is reflected in van Veldhoven's choice of performing forces and their layout. The singers in Coro I comprise five vocal soloists and eight ripienists; Coro II has only the four vocal soloists. In performance, the two groups were placed on widely separated stages--a perspective that is duplicated in the recording.

In an accompanying essay, van Veldhoven explains that his interpretation has been influenced by Daniel Melamed's 2005 book, Hearing Bach's Passions. After listening to this performance, I was moved to read the Melamed's volume, which I recommend without reservation to all lovers of Bach's passions. In a highly well written and accessible manner, Melamed illuminates many of the current issues surrounding the passions, including their performing forces, place in the liturgy, multiple versions, and what it means to listen to them today.

Van Veldhoven leads a superb team of vocalists and instrumentalists in a perfectly structured and paced performance. The movements flow inexorably from one to the next. The tempos maintain both the spiritual and dramatic character of the work. The performing forces provide both weight and clarity. Nothing is quirky. Not a single element is out of place. All the soloists are excellent. Peter Harvey shines as Jesus and in the bass arias in Coro I. Gerd Turk is a fine evangelist. The recorded sound is vivid and lifelike. (I listen in SACD stereo.)

The recording's presentation is the cherry on the sundae. Like the Netherlands Bach Society's recordings of the St. John Passion St John Passion (Hybr), Christmas Oratorio Bach: Christmas Oratorio, and B-Minor Mass , this one is presented in cooperation with the Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht. The three CDs are accompanied by a 192-page book that contains essays about the work and the performance, complete text and English translation, and extensive illustrations of the Passion drawn from the museum's collection.

Classics Today rates this performance 10/10 for artistic and sound quality. Its reviewer writes that "this exceptionally well balanced, thoughtfully paced reading, vividly brought to life by the performers and recording team, deserves a place among the reference versions." BBC Music Magazine calls it "an astonishingly effective version" and has named it choral CD of the month. Gramophone (June 2011) describes it as a "sophisticated, incisive and emotionally graphic account" and praises its "supreme recorded sound." It is now my number one choice. It really makes me wish that I could be in Naarden some Good Friday.
4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Incredibly lovely 12 Feb 2012
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
As with most SACDs, the recording quality is superb. But in addition, the music itself is so lovely. Highly recommended!
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