St Matthew Passion
James Gilchrist, Matthew Rose, Sophie Bevan, David Allsopp, Mark Le Brocq, William Gaunt; The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge/Stephen Cleobury
King’s College KGS0037 163:36 mins (3 discs)
This recording of Bach’s St Matthew Passion was made in the chapel of King’s College Cambridge in April 2019, just a few months before the untimely death of its conductor and long-time director of music at King’s, Stephen Cleobury. The performance is very much a King’s affair in other respects, too, featuring the College’s celebrated choir as well as the Choir of King’s College School which provides the ripieno voices in the opening and closing pieces of Part I of the Passion. Furthermore, four of the soloists are former Cambridge choral scholars.
Cleobury steers an assured path between our traditional responses to the St Matthew Passion and one which reflects developing performing practices, vocal and instrumental, over the past half century. James Gilchrist is no stranger to the onerous role of Evangelist and here he gives us a fervent if, on occasion, slightly
over-dramatic account of the story. His lightly articulated and subtly shaded declamation, though, is a constant pleasure. Matthew Rose’s Christus is resonant and authoritative even if, every now and again, his vocal projection sounds forced.
By and large the arias are well served by the remaining soloists. David Allsopp’s ‘Erbarme dich’ is sensitively nuanced and well-sustained and William Gaunt’s ‘Mache dich’ is beautifully executed, further benefitting from Cleobury’s dance-orientated tempo and gently articulated playing by members of the Academy of Ancient Music. Lovers of the King’s sound will not be disappointed by the choruses and chorales, where producer and engineer have faithfully captured the boys’ voices.