Top critical review
7 of 11 people found this helpful
could have been really good but ruined by the peculiar sound and warbling ("wobbling" of the first soprano
on 25 August 2010
What a pity! This could have been an excellent recording had it not been for the strange timbre and warbling (actually more like a wobble)of the second soprano, Cecilia Osmond. The sound of her voice comes quite close to the sound of a boy treble and doesn't mix well with the other singers. The moment that she enters it is her voice that dominates. This wouldn't be quite so bad if it wasn't for her peculiar vibrato. Even on short notes one can hear it - it is quite simply always there. Sometimes it sounds as though she doesn't have enough breath or enough support in her voice production. I have never heard anything quite like it. In her first solo aria "Laudamus te" one can barely distinguish between what is supposed to be an ornament (trill) and the other notes - every note wobbles uncontrolledly. Has noone else noticed this? I for my part cannot endure it and am going to resell this recording as soon as I can. The first soprano, Susan Hamilton doesn't satisfy me either and the duet between the two sopranos "Christe eleison" is a very shaky affair.
It is a great pity because the other singers are adequate and combine well. Particularly the bass, Matthew Brook is very good. He was equally impressive in the Dunedin's Messiah. The orchestra is excellent, possibly the best I have heard in this work - terrific precision, excellent phrasing and articulation. The horn solo in "Quoniam solus ..." is exceptionall well played. Since the recorded sound (SACD)is outstanding too, the irritation caused by Cecilia Osmond and to a lesser extent Susan Hamilton is doubly annoying. Surely John Butt, the conductor must hear this. Why record this work with such a singer? Surely there must be alternatives. Susan Hamilton is one of the founders of the Dunedin Consort, so this could explain her presence. I found the singing of both sopranos hard to enjoy in the much praised St.Matthew Passion but there it was the really weak Evangelist who ruined the recording for me - tight, forced voice production coupled with awful German pronunciation - very important in his part as the story-teller. He managed to battled his way through the work is the best I can say.
Sorry for this negative review. It is not my habit to offer such harsh criticism. I am also not a voice fetishist and can enjoy many singing styles. Please do not misunderstand me on another point. I am absolutely not an opponent of one voice per part Bach and admire a number of such recordings. However I don't regard OVPP as absolutely indispensible even though this is probably the way Bach himself performed many of his works. This fact alone doe3s not mean that performances with choirs have lost their validity. Anyone who has visited the Thomanerkirche (St.Thomas church) in Leipzig where most of Bach's choral works were performed under the composers's direction will have recognized that the acoustics of this fairly small late-gothic church made OVPP performances feasible. Of course the soloists should be good the volume is no problem. On the other hand the B-minor mass is difficult to sing and most most choirs are over their limit - this statement is based on personal experience as I have sung it myself many times in a choir (Munich Bachchor under Karl Richter). Minkowski has said that he believes that one can only do full justice to the complexity of this work when performing with soloists. He may be right but there are also quite a few excellent recordings with small choirs.
If you want to hear a really good version OVPP try Minkowski's recording, that with Jos van Veldhoven or the older recording with Cantus Köln. They all have excellent, well matched soloists. For a OVPP St.Matthew Passion try McCreesh, van Veldhoven or the new Kuijken recordings. For a very good OVPP Magnificat (another difficult work in which solo voices do well) listen to the recording with the Ricercar Consort under Pierlot. Included on this wonderful disc are also two of Bach's Lutheran masses. The recording of the 4 Lutheran masses with the Purcell Quartet is also excellent in my opinion.
One last remark: some of the Amazon reviews have described this recording as a revelation because it is OVPP. They appear to believe that it is the first OVPP recording. This is not true. The Cantus Köln version appeared almost ten years ago.