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Customer Review

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very great musical and spiritual experience, 17 Sept. 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Bach: St Matthew Passion (Audio CD)
I find the so-called authentic approach, such as that of Gardiner, to a work like the Matthaus-Passion especially damaging: the music tinkles by tritely and yet with too much merely technical self-consciousness. In such recordings the scripture of the text goes meaninglessly for nothing, and the music does not transcend itself. With the soaring vastness of a cathedral, and so slow it seems endlessly to be coming to an end, Klemperer's classic recording is as far from showy newfangledness as could be, and here at last the words and music are allowed to strike home with meaning and feeling. This is not only, alongside the likes of Solti's Ring and Furtwangler's Tristan, a record of inspired music-making, but also, by dint of being theologically informed and spiritually illuminated, a religious experience. Despite the scale and speed of the reading the Philharmonia sound has no heavy, big-band richness, but is pure and stark, with an almost sour edge on it, so there is no loss of clean bite and clarity in the counterpoint, which Klemperer gets airborne with an intense rising weight and momentum. The soloists happen to be some of the finest singers of the time - Fischer-Dieskau's Christ a voice out of Eternity, Pear's castrato speech-song Evangelist, Schwarzkopf and Ludwig like mourning Magdelenes - but more importantly they and the Choir project the words with meaning and feeling in good German diction, and sound haunted or harrowed, doomed amd damned, or full of martyrs' faith, as needed. The orchestral tone is likewise raw-nerved with pain, or incandescent with faith and hope, and it is the grief, guilt, and suffering of the Passion that comes across, with near-unbearable tragic, then redemptive, grandeur - suffering in every moment transfigured into transcendent beauty, which gestures not merely to the mystery of Bach's Passion music, but to the Mystery of the Passion itself.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 13 Mar 2012 15:05:38 GMT
I agree totally with the reviewer. The first movement, for instance, may be slow by today's standards, but it allows timeless resolution of Bach's exquisite discords, and above all matches the words, a people called to lamentation, not to skip around. Otto's work was a total religious experience, even if not regarded as an "authentic" performance nowadays.
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