Bach: St Matthew Passion

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

LABELS: Arte Nova
WORKS: St Matthew Passion
PERFORMER: Britta Stallmeister, Cordelia Hanus, Isabella Stettner (soprano), Hedwig Fassbender (alto), Andreas Wagner, Julio Fernandez (tenor), Andreas Scheibner (baritone), Friedemann Kunder, Florian Rosskopp, Tom Schmidt (bass); Europa Chor Academy Bach Ensemble &
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 80779 2
With upwards of 30 recordings of Bach’s St Matthew Passion available, a new arrival on the scene requires impressive qualities if it is to compete successfully with the many excellent contestants in the league table. This one has two: its choir and, if I may be momentarily wallet-conscious, its price. Conductor Joshard Daus, with the Europa Chor Academy & Bach Ensemble, has already given us stylistically middle-of-the-road recordings of the St John Passion and the B minor Mass; so it was to be expected that a ‘great Passion’, as CPE Bach described the St Matthew, would not be far off. This release is compiled from two concert performances given in Bremen and Munich in April 2000. Far the most enjoyable aspect is that afforded by the choir, which comes across with textural clarity and liveliness of spirit. The soloists are uneven in their ability to declaim the music expressively. Neither Andreas Wagner (Evangelist) nor Friedemann Kunder (Jesus) compares favourably with Howard Crook and Peter Kooy in Philippe Herreweghe’s earlier recording (Harmonia Mundi), Ernst Haefliger and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in Karl Richter’s fine 1958 version (DG Archiv), or, most recently, Christoph Prégardien and Matthias Goerne in Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s third recording of the Passion (Teldec). There is little in the way of poetry emerging from Daus’s often stiff rhythmic approach, as you will quickly discover in the soprano aria ‘Aus Liebe’. Perhaps the most pleasing of the soloists is Hedwig Fassbender who, even if her notes are by no means always impeccably pitched, sings with greater fervour and lyricism than the others. Her ‘Erbarme dich’ reveals both strengths and weaknesses in her performance. But, many readers will be understandably annoyed by the absence of textual translation from the German. Nicholas Anderson