COMPOSERS: JS Bach
WORKS: St Matthew Passion
PERFORMER: Christina Landshamer (soprano), Marie-Claude Chappuis (alto), Johannes Chum, Maximilian Schmitt (tenor), Hanno Müller-Brachmann, Thomas Quasthoff, Klaus Häger (bass); Thomanerchor Leipzig; Tölzer Boys’s Choir; Gewandhausorchester/Riccardo Chailly
CATALOGUE NO: 478 2194
This is a strange recording. When a Bach choral work appears, above all of one of his ultimate masterpieces, one naturally asks nowadays if it is performed ‘authentically,’ using ‘period practices,’ and so on. In this case no definite answer can be given. Riccardo Chailly employs his Leipzig Gewandhaus orchestra, but in a slimmed-down form.
He sets the whole work off at a breathless tempo, enough to ruin the whole work. He turns Bach’s immense chorus of lamentation ‘Come ye daughters, share my grieving’ into a sprightly lilting dance. Klemperer takes more than twice as long over it, but how overwhelming he is!
Much of the rest of the work is conducted better than this, but in no settled style. Some of the arias are taken so deliberately that they sound as if they come from a performance in the 1950s. Some don’t. I felt a pervasive absence of awe.
There is some accomplished solo singing, and the part of Christ is taken with such intensity by Hanno Müller-Brachmann that one wishes it could be put into another account of the work. Thomas Quastoff has a lovely presence, but tends to ponderousness; I find the Evangelist, Johannes Chum, mainly thin-voiced and precious. Rarely has this work left me so unmoved. Michael Tanner