10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The best recording of 'authentic' performance,
This review is from: Bach - St Matthew Passion (Audio CD)
Over the last several decades, the performance style - of baroque music, in particular - changed a lot. As a result, there are a large number of recordings of St Matthew Passion in a wide ranging performance style. To me, the Berlin Classics version recorded in 1970 - in then atheistic East Germany - is by far the best, since it shows the authentic tradition, not influenced by current fashion or trend.
The two most famous boys' choirs - Thomanerchor (The Choir of St Thomas's Church, Leipzig) and Kreuzchor (The Choir of Holy Cross Church, Dresden) - took part in the recording. They sing in a clear tone with precise diction. The adult soloists (15 of them in total, six of whom in principal roles) are exemplary. In particular, Peter Schreier (Evangelist) and Theo Adam (Jesus) are unsurpassed in their respective role. The Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, using modern instruments, gives a superb support. All these choirs, singers and the orchestra based in Saxony are steeped in the Bach tradition so that the listener will feel the 'authenticity' of their performance, despite the higher pitch and modern instruments used.
Bach himself premiered the first version of the work at St Thomas's Church, conducting his own Thomanerchor as part of a Lutheran service in 1729. In the current recording, then cantors of the two boys' choirs - Rudolf and Erhard Mauersberger - share the conducting roles. This performance provides a real experience, as if the listener is a privileged witness to a living tradition rather than something contrived for a recording as is often the case.
I have listened to a number of recordings of the work in my time: Karl Rrichter, Harnoncourt, Karajan, Britten, Gonnenwein, Munchinger, Gardiner, Herreweghe, etc. Each of them offers something interesting, but I was somehow not fully satisfied with any of them for various reasons. Then, I was very glad to find this Berlin Classics version a few years ago by chance.
The recording quality - already more than 40 years old - is very good, although it's inevitably not up to the latest digital recording standard. The 3-CD set comes in a handsomely-packaged box containing a booklet with English translation of the texts. Strongly recommended.
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Initial post: 6 Aug 2014 22:07:37 BDT
Socialist East Germany at its best?
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