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This live NDR Kultur radio broadcast from 2003 is a
welcome addition to John Eliot Gardiner's heroic engagement
with the sacred works of J S Bach. He is indeed a master of
his craft. In his hands (together with The Monteverdi Choir
and The English Baroque Soloists) The St John Passion is given
a visionary performance which confirms its status as one of
Bach's most eloquent compositions. (No poor second fiddle to
The St Matthew Passion in this beautiful rendition!)

The warmth of sound generated in the Konigslutter Kaiserdom
concert is vividly captured by producer Frank Lipp and
recording engineer Helge Martensen. (The levels are a tad on
the quiet side truth-be-told but this does not significantly
diminish, or impact upon, the quality of our listening experience).

Tenor Mark Padmore is an elegant (and fearless)
Evalgelist; bass Hanno Muller-Brachmann, a credible
Jesus and Peter Harvey a workmanlike Pilatus.

Alto Bernarda Fink and sopranos Katharine Fuge and
Joanne Lunn complete the fine team of soloists.

The Monteverdi Choir deliver their chorales with a
scintillating mix of gusto and aching tenderness.

Maestro Gardiner contributes an insightful essay
in the liner notes. The German libretto also appears
in English and French translations. The photography
and packaging is splendidly designed and executed.

All-in-all a St John Passion to rank with the very best.

Recommended.
0Comment|20 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 19 March 2011
This is John Eliot Gardiner's second recording of the St. John (the previous one being for DG Archiv about 10 years ago). It is different in that it is a live performance, and a very nice one too - the recording quality is outstanding. As Gardiner says, the St. John is often regarded as the poor relation of the St. Matthew. However, Gardiner demonstrates that this is not the case, as he brings out all the drama and poignancy of the John's Gospel account. His soloists are excellent, with a minor reservation against Hanno Müller-Brachmann (Jesus), whom I think was only slightly better than adequate. As always, the Monteverdis (recently selected by a "Gramophone" survey as the world's best choir) and the EBS shine brilliantly. I look forward to further Gardiner SDG issues in this series, including the brilliant Herderkirche Christmas Oratorio.
0Comment|15 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
I opted for this St John Passion because it goes well with my library choice for the St Matthew Bach: St Matthew Passion /Gabrieli Players · McCreesh They have three soloists in common, which isn't surprising perhaps when you note that this SDG release was actually recorded all of eight years ago.

Sound quality is splendid, the presentation excellent (though I could have done without the photo of the participants, with JEG looking like a cross between a kung fu baddie and a cult leader) and the notes regarding the passion's history and controversy very valuable. Full texts and translations included.

The St John may have been regarded as the lesser of the two passion settings, but in addition to being shorter its other virtue is that in some ways it is the more dramatic. It certainly has the more arresting introduction. (Did you know there's another version where the opening chorus, Herr unser Herrscher, is omitted!)

For now I'm happy but I'm not well versed enough in Bach or St John Passion recordings to shout out that this is the best (or indeed, better than JEG's previous recording for Archiv). I know that a recent survey on Radio 3 opted for Suzuki's interpretation, but exactly why this one fell behind I didn't comprehend. Suzuki (Bis) is much more expensive.
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on 17 February 2013
A beautifully produced and printed score. The only quibble I have as that as the text is in German AND English, it makes it difficult to read. This work is rarely performed in English so it would be better if the text were in German only thus giving more space for the inner parts. As it is, there is no room to print the text under EACH part. If choirs wish to perform this marvellous work in English they would be better off to use the Novello score.
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on 13 April 2012
I adore The Art of Conducting - Great Conductors of the Past [DVD] [2002] and it is lamentable that a latter-day Thomas Bowdler expunged its most earthy segment when it made the transition from VHS to DVD: Jeggy `going the hack' on Herbie with his `almost evil' jibe. Trust me: it was a great joy to behold Jeggy as he whinnies away. Leaving aside the question of why an English bandmaster was associated with this venture per se, the advent of a second Gardiner recording of Bach's John Passion makes one wonder whether the principle of `we come to resemble that which we most loathe' is operant: Karajan-style, this is a completely superfluous recording that adds nothing to his previous traversal of the work - such as it is.

One only has to listen to the great chorus of "Herr, unser Herrscher, dessen Ruhm" to grasp how much more drama, if not menace, there is to the 1985 version: this later performance is slippered by comparison (Bach: St John Passion). Perhaps the washy acoustic of der Kaiserdom zu Königslutter militates matters (the diction is opaque in "Dein Will gescheh, Herr Gott zugleich") but the bottom-line is the same. Of late I have listened to many Jeggy recordings and usually his strongest suite is the Monteverdi Choir itself - not here. Compared with their forebears from the mid-Eighties, they're flaccid. Worst still, Jeggy has replenished the ranks with some thrill counter-tenors and they sound semi-parodical to me. I have not had a chance to compare the line-up of the respective English Baroque Soloists (in this latter recording, it is 5 / 4 / 3 / 3 / 1 outfit) but they sound even weedier to me than the '85 alternative. Nor are the woodwind that open "Ich folge dir gleichgalls" the last word in polish.

Re the soloists: while Wunderlich is hardly going to rise from the grave in a vendetta, Mark Padmore is suitably polished as the Evangelist even if there is a certain matinee timbre to his voice. The other soloists are fine enough (Bernarda Fink rarely disappoints) with the possible exception of Muller-Brackmann as JC who's a bit of a wobbler.

If Jeggy in this work is an imperative - why, why, why - go for the 1985 performance on DG where the spruce young man with the Clark Kent glasses, "after strange gods", is determined to conquer the world.
22 comments|7 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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