Bach: St John Passion

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: St John Passion
PERFORMER: Barbara Schlick (soprano), Kai Wessel (alto), Guy de Mey, Gerd Tiirk (tenor), Peter Kooy, Klaus Mertens (bass) Netherlands Bach Choir, Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra/Ton Koopman
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-94675-2 DDD
Like Koopman’s reading of the St Matthew Passion last year, this is an intimate, if occasionally idiosyncratic, account. His understanding and shaping of the structure of the work produce powerful results, while an intuitive sense of pacing means the more contemplative sections serve to heighten the main dramatic narrative, rather than interrupt it. Koopman also achieves a sensitive balance between voices and instruments, so that the solo singers become very much part of the contrapuntal texture, and the instrumental parts are given due focus. This is most effective in the aria ‘Von den Stricken’, where Kai Wessel’s reedy alto sound is the perfect complement

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to the oboes. Of the other soloists, Guy de Mey is a pure-voiced and affecting Evangelist, and Peter Kooy a refined, if rather lightweight, Christus. Both Gerd Turk and Barbara Schlick sing with clarity and flair, but Klaus Mertens seems ill at ease in the bass arioso ‘Betrachte, meine Seel”, though he sings better elsewhere. Occasionally

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the choral singing – aggravated by a slightly distant balance – lacks focus, though the interjections during Jesus’s trial are suitably charged. Kate Bolton