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4.3 out of 5 stars15
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 27 September 2007
The booklet says it - this is not a recording for those who want an "authentic" performance. However, for those who want to understand what's going on, it is the only existing recording in English and a fine performance at that. There are times when it would be nice if the recording was little clearer and the soloists wallow a little too much for my tastes at times, but it will serve most listeners well. I also own the McCreesh which is supposedly authentic with all soloists rather than a chorus. That has much faster tempi, a more modern recording but you need a murderous mob like the Bach choir to do do justice to "Let Him be Crucified" and to "Lightnings and Thunders"! Arguably one of the finest few bars in history, "Truly this was the Son of God" is spine tingling in the hands of Willcocks but passes in a flash with McCreesh.
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VINE VOICEon 6 February 2012
Other reviews here on Amazon compare this performance of "St Matthew Passion" with, for example, recordings by Paul McCreesh, and others, of "authentic" versions that seek to recreate the sound world of Bach's own time. I feel that Sir David Willcock's recording here needs to be understood as itself an historic performance, comparable with those common a generation or two ago under conductors like Reginald Jacques and even (on Pearl) Ralph Vaughan Williams.

The Bach Choir sing very well indeed but the glory of this recording is the line-up of soloists, especially the much-missed Robert Tear. Likewise the continuo players, all of whom are splendidly recorded supporting the exceptional soloists.

As Willcocks writes in his notes to the set, there are many other alternative versions of this masterpiece available to the record collector but, like Sir Adrian Boult's 1973 recording of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, this particular performance offers a glimpse of how our parents and grandparents were introduced to this wonderful music. Highly recommended.
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on 19 March 2008
There are two recorded version of Bach's St. Matthew Passion, this one and a cut (but highly dramatic version) from Bernstein issued on the Sony label.

As a 'good reformed Christian' Bach would loathe 'authentic' productions of his work. He believed the text was central to his work. Indeed, the very reason both St. John's and St. Matthew's Passions are so dramatically compelling are to highlight the importance of the Easter story. It is a pity that musical concerns so offen take prescedence, that form matters more than content. We shouldn't have to be German speakers to understand this sublime work.

Willcocks conducts a performance on modern instruments, which adds to the smoothness of the string accompaniments. This a beautiful performance which brings the emotional depth of this work to life for an English speaking audience. I am writing this review in Holy Week and appreciate that listening to this work is an act of worship, which edifies and uplifts, as well as entertains.

All the soloists are first class, with Robert Tear's evangelist particularly beautiful and expressive. This is a moving performance taken at an appropriate pace. The whole of Willcock's Passion lasts for 3 hours and 9 mins, as apposed to Gardiner's 'authentic' performance of 2 hours and 37 mins. For a work of this nature the slower, more sober pace can only add greater depth to the dramatic import of the sacred nature of the story. The choir of boys from St. Paul's Cathedral and the Bach Choir are also superb.

If you want a Saint Matthew's Passion that uplifts then this performance is ideal. One example is the aria (sung very movingly by Stephen Roberts), "Come, sacred cross." The profundity of it's quiet power and beauty are deeply affecting in a way that following a libretto of a German version can never truly be.

I love the Willcocks St. Matthew's Passion and feel sure you will gain much by listening to and understanding this studio performance. The only slight moan is about the booklet accompanying the CDs. It would have been helpful to have the track numbers printed next to their words on each of the seperate sections of the work.
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on 11 May 2009
As the Matthew Passion tells its story in a very operatic fashion, it is good to have an English language intepretation; good to actually be able to follow the story without recourse to booklet or O-level German!

The performance is excellent, if a little different - particularly if you are used to more 'authetic' versions. But it is also very 'regal', very moving, and suits the subject matter well. I also have the McCreesh and Harnoncourt recordings, and whilst this English language version doesn't come anywhere near replacing them in my affections, it genuinely complements them. So if you really love this great work, give it a go; it's well worth a listen.
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on 13 June 2012
Also the version to have if your your Passion. Frankly the "authentic" versions all leave me cold, however brilliant some of the singing and playing may be. Many - I am one - regard this as the greatest religious work ever composed. But since no-one else has mentioned it here, I will mention that there is a post-production flaw in this set. The start of Track 10 on CD2 has got tacked on to the end of Track 9. Put simply, the tracks have been separated in the wrong place. This might not matter too much if it weren't for the fact that Track 9 is the end of Part 1 and Track 10 is the start of Part 2. If you rip the set to enjoy on your iPod or other digital music player (as many do), chances are you'll create two playlists: One for Part 1 and one for Part 2. So when you settle down to enjoy Part 2 (or begin with Track 10 on CD2), you will miss the first 4 bars of the introduction. The music fades in from the second phrase, which is very odd. If you are deeply troubled by this, someone with a good audio editing suite will be able to sort it out for you. I have deducted one star for this reason only. A flaw is a flaw.
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on 24 August 2015
Buy this for the first part if nothing else the two groups playing and singing across each other are amazing. That said it was written to be performed live in a church at Easter because it's a passion piece as in the Christian meaning of that word.
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on 10 February 2013
A very good recording of this wonderful music.... and particularly useful if using it to practise for your own choir - since this version is sung in English!
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on 23 July 2015
I was part of a school choir who sang some of the choruses in the Usher Hall in Edinburgh many years ago. Delighted with this English language version. M
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on 10 April 2015
It's the nearest thing to Heaven on Earth.
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on 3 January 2015
Timely service and quality as advertised.
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