Customer Review

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A major addition to the Naxos Historical Catalogue., 2 July 2004
This review is from: Bach: St. Matthew Passion (Audio CD)
Amongst the vast legacy of recordings from Mengelberg's Amsterdam years, this one had until now eluded me. Well, the wait was worthwhile! I doubt that the St Matthew Passion recording, wonderfully vivid for 1939, has ever sounded as well as in this 2004 remastering by Mark Obert-Thorn. You'll be aware of a few patches of blasting in the opening chorus, and a few clicks thereafter, but you'll soon feel comfortably enveloped in the grand ambience of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. The recording is especially kind to the choir.
So much for the recording quality, what of the performance? Commitment, sincerity, grandeur and reverence - words like this typify it. Don't expect metronomic totality to be sustained in each item. Indeed, so many are the kinks and bends in the music's flow that you'll wonder how such large forces directed by one diminutive conductor could maintain such perfect ensemble. Those who favor contemporary styles of Bach performance will need to forget all that. Repeated hearings might show that behind Mengelberg's idiosyncracies is a strong understanding of a great event and a commitment to making Bach's music reveal it directly.
Complete St Matthew Passion performances were rare in the 1930s. Bruno Walter was one conductor who later regretted that he had conducted "cut" versions. This one lasts for about two and three-quarter hours. All Mengelberg's other Bach recordings are added to fill the third CD.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 13 Oct 2012 16:36:11 BDT
UKJohn says:
Reading the last paragraph of this review, you may be misled into thinking that this is a recording of a complete performance. It is not. Here is the producer's note from the Naxos reissue:

'The conductor chose to omit several numbers from his performance of the Passion. The largest cut begins in the middle of No. 49 and jumps to No. 54. In Philips' most recent CD reissue (part of their Duo series), further numbers were cut in order to fit the performance onto two discs.'
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