Bach, Keiser

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Bach,Keiser
LABELS: ASV Gaudeamus
WORKS: St Mark Passion
PERFORMER: Jeremy Ovenden (tenor, Evangelist), Timothy Mirfin (bass, Christus), Ruth Gomme (soprano), William Towers (alto), James Gilchrist, Paul Thompson (tenor); Choir of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, Cambridge Baroque Camerata/Geoffrey Webber
CATALOGUE NO: CD GAX 237
Andor Gomme’s reconstruction of Bach’s St Mark Passion has caused a good deal of controversy. Relocated arias and a formal plan altered to conform with Keiser’s version of the passion produces an unbalanced structure, too thick with recitative. Nevertheless, since Bach did incorporate parts of Keiser’s Mark Passion in the ‘Passion-Pasticcio’, Gomme’s decision to adopt his music for the Gospel narrative is not entirely unfounded.

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As for the performance itself, Geoffrey Webber has assembled an able group of soloists who generally bring apt colour and character to the arias; although Ruth Gomme’s reedy soprano occasionally sounds strained. Otherwise, Jeremy Ovenden is an engaging Evangelist, Timothy Mirfin sings the part of Jesus with impressive gravitas and William Towers executes the other roles with a pleasingly nasal quality. The supporting cast is also very good, with sensitive phrasing in the chorales and choruses from the Gonville & Caius College choristers and stylish playing from the instrumentalists. This recording will not silence Gomme’s critics, but it does offer the chance to hear rarely heard Bach – albeit as part of a curious hybrid.

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An account of Keiser’s Laudate Pueri Dominum – featuring an accomplished team of soloists taken from within the choir – completes this provocative programme. Nicholas Rast