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St Matthew's Passion
St Matthew's Passion

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A generational thing?, 14 Sep 2013
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This review is from: St Matthew's Passion (Audio CD)
I grew up with this recording, I still remember my father playing it on LP on Good Fridays (though an atheist family, we observed custom!) and pointing out the differences between the soprano and alto registers to a four- or five-year-old me. Of course, since then there have been other landmark versions with the smaller orchestras and choirs and faster tempi dictated by the 'period music' cabal (a previous reviewer's comments on them being the politically correct musical police de nos jours certainly made me smile!). To my mind the revelation was not so much Gardiner but the Harnoncourt rendition, where the smaller choir is so agile and the central performers (Bernarda Fink coming as close to Ludwig as it's possible to hope; Matthias Goerne out-Fischer-Dieskaus Fischer-Dieskau; and Christophe Prégardien manages the unthinkable in equalling Pears) are nearly faultless. And yet when I played it to my (by now septuagenarian) father, he complained of the rhythms, he found the choir 'muffled' and finally went 'no-one can outdo Klemperer!'...

Well no, they can. But this should never mean that this majestic, expansive, deeply moving recording should be forgotten or denigrated. I read somewhere recently that Otto K. was 'a great conductor despite his unforgivable Bach' - well, aesthetic patricide is probably de rigeur in all of the arts, but surely one could take a deep breath and pause before saying that the ultimate 'Erbarme dich' as sung here by Christa Ludwig, and for which Klemperer and his ponderous time-signature must surely be given some credit too, is 'unforgivable'! I would say the same for the closing and, especially, the opening Chorale, where again I could totally understand young (well, not so young anymore...) Turks thinking 'get on with it, already!' but where the relaxing of the tempo and the swell and rush of the seemingly infinite choir project a majesty, a profound humanity that often gets missed in thin albeit fastidious period-instrument recordings. Buy it - and then buy Harnoncourt or Gardiner or an even newer recording too. It's probably (with the exception of the B-minor mass perhaps?) the greatest choral music ever to be sung on earth, so having multiple versions, and finding good in more than one approach, could only be seen as a good thing. Don't kill your fathers yet...
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 18, 2013 8:15 PM GMT

The Art Of Amalia
The Art Of Amalia
Offered by marvelio-uk
Price: £14.47

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A small taste of greatness, 12 Nov 2012
This review is from: The Art Of Amalia (Audio CD)
This should ideally be purchased alongside the accompanying Volume II, which contains classics like `Cansaço', `Canção Do Mar', `Fria Claridade' and the extraordinary `Fado Peniche' - but even on its own it's enough.

'Maldição' and `Estranha Forma de Vida' both exemplify the `existential' dimensions of fado (also taken up so well in Mariza's `Loucura'), the internal dialogue between a lucid voice that knows it's suffering, and the other voice, belonging to the same person, but which is the cause of the suffering. `Primavera' and `Gaivota' both capture the erotic dimension, the former in a more traditional, the latter in a modern poetic expression. Talking of poetry, next to the surrealist imagery of Alexandre O' Neill's `Gaivota', Amalia dares to put to music a sonnet from Camões' 16th-century `Lusiads' in `Com que Voz', whereas Pedro Homem de Meillo offers her, in `Povo que Lavas no Rio', perhaps the most `distilled' vision of what it means to be `the people's singer': a vision utterly and completely unique to Amalia, so much so that I hated Mariza for trying her own version at the Albert Hall a few years back and I'm still ambivalent about Cristina Branco trying it on as well...

But the point is not the poetry, nor the music (if it's possible to make such arbitrary separations, of course) - no, the point is the voice. The reviewer who compared Amalia to Kathleen Ferrier has a point, and all those who have compared her to Piaf or to Billie Holliday are also on the right track, in a way. Whether Portuguese, more generally `European' or simply English-speaking in the most `pedestrian' way, I dare anyone to fail to be moved by Amalia's voice and her performance. Power, control, expressive force, gripping restraint effortlessly coupled with amazing, perfectly judged flourishes (witness the last line of `Maria Lisboa' alone)... Make no mistake: this was THE voice of the 20th century. No-one, but no-one, can touch her.

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