Customer Review

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A faithful recording, 7 Sep 2003
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This review is from: Bach - St John Passion (Audio CD)
This recording is something of a 'family' project: all the soloists have an association with New College Choir. Collegium Novum, which is of course Latin for New College, is the instrumental ensemble formed especially for this recording. Some of this group also have associations with New College, for example Ryan Wigglesworth, the organ continuo.
James Gilchrist (a New College chorister in the 1970s) is impressive as the Evangelist: vibrato is not used as a standard technique to be applied to every note, but as a special expressive device. His expression overall, combined with his obvious musical rapport with the orchestra, is eye-watering in many places, and the recitative Gilchrist performs is the shining star of this recording. The perfect example is 'Und siehe da der Vorhang in Tempel zerriß' ('And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two'): the sheer violence and terror of Bach's music itself were surely not matched until the D minor return of the Commendatore in Don Giovanni; yet Gilchrist infuses it with such violent energy that the listener both wants to hear it again and simultaneously cannot bring themself to do so.
The period instruments are handled excellently by Collegium Novum. The cellos and basses are worth a special mention for the passages in which they play together; the balance of the two instruments is perfect throughout, presenting a bass line which is neither too heavy nor too light.
The German pronunciation of the soloists and of the choir is generally excellent through the whole 100 minutes of this recording. In those places where it is lacking, it is almost always a confusion between 'u' with and without umlaut (ü), which, incidentally, is continued in the sleeve notes with a persistent misspelling of 'Juden' (Jews) as 'Jüden'!
The recording succeeds in being faithful to both the musical text and the verbal text of the Passion, giving it an emotional quality which oscillates between raw and meditative: overall, a truly excellent recording.
ANDREW J HENDERSON
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