Customer Review

26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overrated . . ., 13 Jan. 2007
This review is from: Bach: St John Passion (Audio CD)
The Penguin guide accords this set a Rosette, and previous reviewers on amazon have been very positive. However, I would counsel caution before buying. I agree with the reviewer who mentions intonation problems with the boys choir. More generally, with the reverberant acoustic and large forces, in many contrapuntal choral passages the different musical lines become obscured and muddied - it becomes impossible to hear even a distinct pitch, let alone words, when there are fast semi-quaver's etc.

Peter Pears, of course, divides tastes - a love or loathe kind of tenor. Personally I'm a fan, and his contribution is strong. The biggest problem with this set is the other solo tenor, Robert Tear. Tear has the worst kind of wobbly wide-vibratoed tone - totally unsuited to Bach and a huge minus point for this recording.

If you are keen to hear the St John Passion in english there is much to like about this recording. Britten's conducting is lively, as in his Brandenburg concerti, and Heather Harper sings beautifully though in an "inauthentic", operatic style. But I would definitely advise against buying this as one's first/only recording of the work. Gardiner's or Suzuki's performances are both in German and on "period instruments", but it is not for those reasons that they are far preferable to Britten. They are both musically/artistically far superior - the choral work is cleanly articulated, precise and IN TUNE, the soloists are all much easier on the ear, and the overall effect is both more exciting and more sonically beautiful, not to mention better recorded.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 18 Apr 2013 21:33:05 BDT
Wyresider says:
"Heather Harper sings beautifully though in an 'inauthentic', operatic style" ... I was interested to read that, because my first reaction on hearing track samples of this recording was "but this is not an opera!"

The reviewer's comment reflects a chronic problem with Big Companies' recordings: they go for "big names" by reflex, regardless of suitability.

I have just bought Linn's recording of this work by the Dunedin Consort under John Butt, and it is a must. The band, the conductor and the singers are all excellent. Joanne Lunn makes an interesting comparison with Heather Harper; she brings "I will follow you" to life, and her "floods of tears" seem real, while Heather Harper seems merely to have turned over the page. Again on the basis of a few track-by-track samples, so not a proper comparison, the OAE under Stephen Layton on Hyperion seems to split the difference; more life than the Decca/Britten recording, and at least they know it is not an opera.

So while I can't give a proper comparison, I'm glad I bought the Linn/Dunedin, will consider the Hyperion (if the price comes down a long way), and I have no inclination to buy the Decca/Britten performance.
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