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78 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Perfectly Human Passion, 4 Feb 2009
By 
The Wolf (uk) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: J.S. Bach: St Matthew Passion (Audio CD)
Having a healthy appreciation of sacred music whilst
at the same time being a committed atheist may seem,
at first, to be contradictory qualities.

I have never really thought it mattered much whether the great cultural
artifacts of mankind are the product of divine providence and intervention
or the magnificent manifestation of wholly human imagination and creativity.

The story of the death of Jesus Christ has, nonetheless, been the
source of inspiration for some of the greatest works of art,
whether in two, three or four (?) dimensions (what dimension
does music exist in ?).

The Matthaus Passion by J S Bach is one of the very greatest.
The drama is brought alive in music of quite extraordinary
power, complexity and emotional impact.
It is a good story very well told.

Where to begin in chosing a recording of this wonderful
work is a difficult task. There are a great many excellent
recordings available.

My two treasured vinyl sets are, I believe, among the best.

The 1971 Nikolaus Harnoncourt, somewhat quirky, edition for
Das Alte Werk, sporting an all male vocal cast, including
the stupendous Kurt Equiluz as The Evangelist, is a slightly
challenging left-field choice but delivers rich rewards.

The 1980, Karl Richter recording for Archiv, whilst being a
somewhat more 'old school' interpretation brings together
some of the finest singers of that, or any, generation.
Edith Mathis, Janet Baker, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau,
Matti Salminen and Peter Schreier (a peerless Evangelist).

I would not be without either.

It was time to consider a CD edition nonetheless.

The 2000 Harnoncourt (again!) Das Alte Werk recording
released on Warner Classics is a masterpiece.

Harnoncourt directs the Concentus Musicus Wien with
sensitivity and finesse. The warm ambience of the
Jesuitenkirche-Universitatskirche in Vienna brings
a glorious sonic bloom to the performance.
The two choirs : the Wiener Sangerknaben and the
Arnold Schoenberg Chor deliver a wide and expressive,
at times really thrilling, dynamic range.
The chorales, in particular, are sublime.

Soloists, including a mercurial but powerful
Christoph Pregardien as The Evangelist is a
consistent and convincing lynchpin.
Bass, Matthias Goerne is a fruity-voiced Jesus.
Equally so, contralto Bernada Fink. Listen to her
performance of the great aria 'Erbarme Dich Mein Gott'
for a heartwrending experience.
Soprano Christine Schafer's rendition of 'Aus Liebe Will
Mein Heiland Sterben' has an almost otherworldly beauty.
Bass Dietrich Henschel's elegant 'Mache Dich,Mein Herze Rein'
is yet another marvelous highlight among many others.

The musicianship throughout is of the highest calibre and quality.
The tempi are never sluggish (so important in this work) and
Maestro Harnoncourt's sensitive grip and vision never slips for a moment.

Among a great number of other worthy recordings it is my
pleasure to recommend this stunning interpretation very highly
to anyone stumbling across my clumsy attempt at a useful review.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great performance, 5 May 2014
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This review is from: J.S. Bach: St Matthew Passion (Audio CD)
I grew up on Harnoncourt's 1971 recording which was a refreshing change from the grossly ponderous Klemperer performance that is still touted today (surely more for its soloists than anything else). I learned to enjoy the quirks of that Harnoncourt recording and have long tried without success to obtain a CD to replace the old LPs. However, having purchased this 2000 version I am now entirely satisfied: the earlier quirks are gone but the overall performance retains Harnoncourt's unique combination of lightness, transparency and devotional intensity. I've stopped searching.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All about Goerne, 10 April 2013
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This review is from: J.S. Bach: St Matthew Passion (Audio CD)
Yes, it's all about Goerne! The German bass in the Jesus role lords it and overshadows the Evangelist (theoretically his equal) and a stellar cast of wonderful singers by the sheer prowess of his voice.

Yet marvellous things could be said about the other singers (Fink, Schaefer et al), about the choir (fascinating) and the orchestra; about Harnoncourt's carving of the chorales and about the acoustics, sound engineering, etc

However, it's Goerne who rules the roast. The Passion loses the balance between Jesus and the Evangelist (here Pregardien is subsumed in near irrelevance). What would have happened with the great Schreier as Evangelist, pitted against Goerne?

Well, that question cannot be answered, but what would have happened, pitting Bostridge against him? that's a much more realistic proposition. But Bostridge went to work for Herreweghe and the results are not dramatic enough, apparently. Still hopes though for the future!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent performance and recording, 30 Nov 2013
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This review is from: J.S. Bach: St Matthew Passion (Audio CD)
Wonderful recording and sound - full, authoritative and strident - the perfect complement in performance to the music itself. As an expression of Bach's great work it makes exhalting listening.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best performance of Bach's masterpiece, 13 April 2013
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This review is from: J.S. Bach: St Matthew Passion (Audio CD)
If you want to listen to the most authentic performance of Bach's St Matthew Passion - this is the best choice!
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars St Matthew Passion, 19 July 2013
This review is from: J.S. Bach: St Matthew Passion (Audio CD)
Enjoy excellent music giving praise to God of the Bible
Recommend it for musicians and Christians
for devotional purposes .
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