JS Bach: St Matthew Passion

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COMPOSERS: JS Bach
LABELS: BR Klassik
ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach: St Matthew Passion
WORKS: St Matthew Passion
PERFORMER: Julian Prégardien (tenor), Karl-Magnus Fredriksson (baritone), Karina Gauvin (soprano), Gerhild Romberger (mezzo-soprano), Maximilian Schmitt (tenor), Michael Nagy (baritone); Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks; Regensburger Domspatzen; Concerto Köln/Peter Dijkstra

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Unlike René Jacobs’s recent Matthew Passion which reimagined the double choir and orchestral forces spatially separated front-to-back rather than left-to-right, Peter Dijkstra’s live Bavarian performance (also available on DVD) has no scholarly axe to grind. And if it’s no surprise to find the name Prégardien alongside the word Evangelist, the Prégardien in question is not Passion veteran Christoph but his son Julian – whose ringing engagement and vivid narrative cogency have you hanging on every word, whether venomous or consoling. Commanding, yet exuding a charismatic humanity, Karl-Magnus Fredriksson’s Jesus is equally compelling, not afraid to summon up indignation as well as uttering the ‘commandments’ of the Last Supper with serene, unforced nobility. Indeed soloistically this is a Matthew Passion cast from considerable strength. Above a plangent trio of flute and oboes da caccia, Karina Gauvin’s ‘Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben’ soars, a contemplative oasis before the choral hurricane that calls for Christ’s crucifixion. Mezzo Gerhild Romberger is supremely poised throughout (though the heartfelt plea for mercy in ‘Erbarme dich’ sounds a touch circumscribed), and Michael Nagy’s lyrical ‘Mache dich mein Herze rein’ is suavely sculpted. Aided by Concerto Köln’s fine playing and his adept radio choir, Peter Dijkstra’s musical direction doesn’t quite fashion a single, inevitable trajectory for the pacing, but is conspicuously impressive nonetheless. And if the recording takes the edge off Bach’s opening chorus experiments in musical space, the closing chorus to Part 1 is exquisitely judged as is the climax of the crucifixion. A text is provided but without translation. Paul Riley