Bach: St Matthew Passion

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WORKS: St Matthew Passion
PERFORMER: Guy de Mey, Peter Kooy, Barbara Schlick, Kai Wessel, Christoph Prégardien, Klaus MertensDe Nederlandse Bachvereniging, Sacramentskoor Breda, Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra/Ton Koopman
CATALOGUE NO: 2292-45814-2 DDD
Ton Koopman’s new recording of the St Matthew Passion faces stiff competition, with 14 complete versions currently available, ranging from the classic recordings by Klemperer, Jochum, Richter and Münchinger, to more recent performances by Harnoncourt, Leonhardt and Eliot Gardiner. Koopman’s is a highly personal and intimate reading, especially apt for this contemplative score rather than the more dramatic St John Passion. Of the soloists, Kai Wessel’s plangent, rather instrumental-sounding alto is perfect in this context, and his interpretation of ‘Erbarme dich, mein Gott’ has a mystical, ethereal quality that is quite exquisite. Guy de Mey is a fluent, if not particularly dramatic, Evangelist, and Peter Kooy makes a sympathetic Jesus, though at times his voice lacks impact and he doesn’t always seem entirely at ease in this role. There’s a wonderful urgency to the choral singing, and because the voices are set back a little the instrumental parts can be heard with refreshing clarity. Koopman brings out lines that are submerged in many other recordings, sometimes in a rather idiosyncratic way – the occasional use of the penetrating sesquialtera organ stop to support the cantus firmus, for instance. In all, a most affecting performance, and for anyone looking for a version on period instruments this should come high on the list. Kate Bolton