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J.S. Bach: St. Matthew Passion (Amsterdam 2012) (Iván Fischer, Mark Padmore, Peter Harvey) (Arthaus: 108075) [Blu-ray] 
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LIVE RECORDING FROM THE ROYAL CONCERTGEBOUW
Tenor Evangelist MARK PADMORE
Bass Christ PETER HARVEY
Soprano MARIA ESPADA
Mezzo Soprano /Alto INGEBORG DANZ
Soprano RENATE ARENDS
Mezzo Soprano /Alto BARBARA KOZELJ
Tenor PETER GIJSBERTSEN
Bass HENK NEVEN
ROYAL CONCERTGEBOUW ORCHESTRA AMSTERDAM
NETHERLANDS RADIO CHOIR & NATIONAL CHILDRENS CHOIR
Conductor IVÁN FISCHER
This 2012 recording of the most influential and wide spread oratorio by Johann Sebastian Bach features the Hungarian conductor Iván Fischer, a visionary in his field, with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. The double choir is the essential musical aspect on which Iván Fischers interpretation of Bachs St. Matthew Passion is based. Only by consistently seizing on that duality will all the complementary layers stand out as they should. He describes this essential fundamental aspect as follows: You cant do the St. Matthew in an unreligious way. The only approach is from a deep, universally religious feeling.
The internationally renowned tenor Mark Padmore is brilliant as the Evangelist, Peter Harvey gives a moving interpretation of Christ. Together with Ingeborg Danz, Renate Arends, Maria Espada, Barbara Kozelj, Peter Gijsbertsen and Henk Neven and the Netherlands Radio Choir they carry the audience through an affecting performance of this masterwork.
Sound Format: PCM Stereo, PCM Stereo, dts-HD Master, Audio 5.0 (Blu-ray)
Picture Format: 16:9, 1080i FULL HD
Format: 2 x DVD 9 / NTSC, 50 GB (Dual Layer)
Subtitle Languages: DE (Original Language), GB, FR, ES, JP
Running Time: 174 mins
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Modern instruments are used with the exception of a pair of recorders and a viola da gamba which are employed at various points in the score. The number of string players is reduced to chamber dimensions. I prefer Bach on period instruments, but I greatly enjoyed the instrumental side of this performance. The performance makes beautiful use of the double-choirs and orchestras.
Conductor Iván Fischer has assembled a first-rate team of soloists and there is some outstandingly characterised singing to be heard. Mark Padmore is a highly charged and responsive Evangelist. Peter Harvey, more a baritone than a bass, makes a suitably grave Christus, uncomplicated and devotional. Both are on excellent form. As for the supreme alto aria ‘Erbarme dich’ Ingeborg Danz beautifully conveys the ecstatic devotion of resting on God’s mercy. There are two separate quartets of soloists, one for each choir. The arias are more or less evenly divided between the two groups, except for Ingeborg Danz, who has four arias and a duet with Maria Espada.
Iván Fischer is not associated much with Bach but The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s instrumentalists have an ear for Baroque luminosity and elegant nuancing. In collaboration with the Netherlands Radio Choir and National Children's Choir they offer some incredibly sumptuous sonorities.
Cameras are able to capture everything from a variety of angles and offer the perfect balance between full panoramic stage shots and close detail. The sound is excellent.
Perhaps some people would prefer the bass parts to be sung by a bass rather than a baritone, but that said, the interpretation is good. The booklet could well have more detail on the performers. I would have found that more interesting than who created the make-up for instance.
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