- Performer: Nicholas Mulroy, Matthew Brook, Susan Hamilton, Malcolm Bennett, Brian Bannatyne-Scott, et al.
- Orchestra: Dunedin Consort & Players
- Conductor: John Butt
- Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
- Audio CD (10 Mar. 2008)
- Please Note: Requires SACD-compatible hardware
- Number of Discs: 3
- Format: Hybrid SACD, SACD, Box set
- Label: Linn
- ASIN: B001355OUW
- Other Editions: Audio CD
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 93,726 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
Bach: Matthew Passion Hybrid SACD, SACD, Box set
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For the many fans of the Consort's award-winning Messiah,the release of another Handel album is welcome news and Acis and Galatea does not disappoint! Classic FM Magazine named the recording 'Opera & Vocal Disc of the Month'.In addition to awarding the recording five stars the magazine also stated...the freshness with which they sing radiates joy throughout the entire score.This adds to the numerous recommendations and outstanding reviews that the double award-winning group have received for their recording of this pastoral entertainment by Handel. Gramophone magazine also named the recording 'Disc of the Month' and it was named the First Choice Recommendation by CD Review's Building a Library on BBC Radio 3,described as a vivacious performance brimming with sheer happiness. In 2012 the recording was named one of the 5 Essential Works by Johann Sebastian Bach' by BBC Music Magazine.Album of the Month,Utterly magical... rival Handel sets will have to be special indeed to top,or even to approach,this.Gramophone.Opera & Vocal Disc of the Month,The freshness with which they sing radiates joy throughout the entire score.(five stars)Classic FM Magazine.CD of the Week,Wonderfully intimate reading.The Observer.[An]outstanding new recording...warmly recommended.International Record Review. Recording of the Month,Already a strong contender for the 2009 Recording of the Year.MusicWeb International.Handel fans rejoice-a definitive Acis and Galatea at last!(five stars)Audiophile Audition. Such radiant music-making is an ideal hors d'oeuvre for the upcoming Handel year.(five stars)Financial Times.
Fresh from the success of their double award winning Messiah, the Dunedin Consort and John Butt are back with another historically-informed 'first', this time Bach's final revision of the Matthew Passion. Broadly, this means the substitution of a harpsichord for one of the normal two organs, plus changes in the vocal numbers and combinations.
From the word go, the Dunedin Consort draws you in. The instruments are perfectly balanced, the playing is soulful, there are subtle swells, and the lilting tempo strikes a happy medium between pace and sobriety. So, nothing to dislike in the instrumental department, and everything to love. As for the vocal, the debate over how many voices to a part (three to four, or one) Bach used or wanted has raged for a good quarter of a century and no doubt will continue for some time to come. For the purposes of this review, you just need to know that John Butt falls squarely in the single-voice-to-a-part camp. This will mean that, if you're used to a traditional choral performance, the entry of the voices will take you by surprise, sounding quite thin in comparison to your expectations and to the full instrumental sound. Give it a chance, though, as it doesn't take long for the ears to adjust, and then you'll begin to appreciate that what is lost in body is gained in the clarity of the beautifully sung vocal lines and the transparent texture. My one quibble would be with some of the chorales. With their observations for today's believer I expect, even crave, to be lifted to another spiritual plain, but it doesn't always feel as though the singers' bodies and souls have completely surrendered to the passion of these extraordinary words. That said, there are some lovely solo moments, such as Clare Wilkinson's Erbarme dich.
Essentially, whether you love this recording will boil down to how you feel about one-voice-to-a-part Bach. However, even if you're not usually a fan, such is the quality of sound, you may end up being converted. --Charlotte Gardner
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Top Customer Reviews
At the moment this would be my desert island Matthew Passion despite how good Gardiner and Suzuki both are. I have no "authentic/period" axe to grind and found that the slight changes to instrumentation in this recording (it claims rather self-importantly to be the first recording of Bach's 1742 version) were too minor to notice - apart from the presence of a Harpsichord in the opening chorus. The reason to buy this set is not due to it being authentic but because it features the most exquisite playing and singing.
Critical reaction in the press, at least that I have read, was somewhat lukewarm in comparison to the accolades heaped on the Dunedin consort's Handel Messiah (many critics do still have a 1-p-p vs larger choir axe to grind). Don't let that put you off, this is very special indeed. The recorded sound is also extremely clear and of the highest modern standards.
Butt takes us into a world of Bach that is brightly-lit and fresh-sounding. This is thanks to his fresh-sounding soloists, a brilliantly clear and close-up recording, and his adoption of a one voice per part approach. Debate about the historical correctness of the one voice per part approach, as used here, and whether or not Bach would have wanted it this way, can distract from the obvious advantages such an approach can bring, and which are abundant in this recording, namely greater immediacy, very much a case of less being more.
But I am not won over to this recording on the grounds of academic argument. I am won over by its sheer satisfying musicality. In this regard, the use of youthful-sounding soloists has paid off for nowhere is there the kind of over-studied feel that can creep in when big international names are used. Nicholas Mulroy as the Evangelist is an absolute pleasure throughout. There are none of the lieder-like mannerisms that one gets with Ian Bostridge or James Gilchrist is such roles. Mulroy relies on the sheer plangent quality of his tenor to hold our attention. Matthew Brook as Jesus should also be mentioned for the steady quality of his singing.Read more ›
Since becoming imprinted with the iconic Gardiner version, it has been difficult for me to hear other recordings with much empathy.
But...This fantastic performance led by Butt is a breath of fresh air to me.
Dealing with some sonic issues to get them out of the way: at first I listened to it on the SACD layer, using digital multichannel in, through my home surround system (Denon / Denon / Mission 78x series), which usually brings out very satisfactory nuance and clarity via Audyssey-calibrated channel balance. However, the sound was HORRIBLY unbalanced. Extremely tinny and edgy with excessive high frequency harmonics, and boomy bass.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
My wife went to a course at Sarum College, in Salisbury, about the Bach Passions and the course leader played some of this recording. She fell in love with it and so have I. Read morePublished on 16 April 2015 by The Cornish Man
One voice per part may be very authentic and I have a very good B minor Mass recording done this way, but here the voices sound too far forward in the balance of the recording to... Read morePublished on 16 Jun. 2014 by Clavecin
If you,like me,prefer performances which are what,in our 21stC opinions of how Bach's works would have been performed,then this is the one to buy. Read morePublished on 30 Mar. 2013 by Mr. D. Wilson
This is a superb version of Bach's St Matthew Passion, must be one of the best on record! I would recommend this to any serious music lover.Published on 18 Nov. 2012 by jkbish
The St Matthew Passion is a work I can listen to time and time again and not get tired of it, even though I am a sceptical agnostic. Read morePublished on 27 Jun. 2012 by Musica Vita
I obviously realized this recording uses' one voice per part' approach but it comes with built-in limitations which I have found more significant than expected when I bought these... Read morePublished on 12 Jun. 2012 by hifimuso
Having seen the Dunedin Consort perform the Passion this Easter in Edinburgh I just had to buy the recording. Read morePublished on 30 April 2011 by C. Fulton