COMPOSERS: JS Bach
ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach
WORKS: St John Passion
PERFORMER: Ditte Andersen, Lenneke Ruiten (soprano), Delphine Galou, David Hansen (alto), Lothar Odinius, Colin Balzer, Valerio Contaldo (tenor), Christian Immler, Yorck Felix Speer (bass); Les Musiciens du Louvre/Marc Minkowski
CATALOGUE NO: 9029585405
Marc Minkowski’s view of the St John Passion as a combination of theatre, meditation and prayer informs this memorable reading, which flits in a heartbeat from dramatic urgency to otherworldly serenity. The chamber-style chorus, with just two voices to a part, is lissom and detailed: reflective in the chorales, which comment on the Passion story, insistent to the point of being obsessive as the unmerciful crowd in the trial before Pilate – a scene which builds to insidious effect.
Notable among the well-balanced soloists are Christian Immler, a noble Christ, the resonant-voiced Yorck Felix Speer (Pilate, Peter), and Lothar Odinius (the Evangelist), whose pliant narration is responsive to poetic nuance without being overly dramatised. Lenneke Ruiten deserves a mention, too, for her disarming treble-like sound, hauntingly innocent in ‘Zerfliesse, mein Herze’. Elsewhere, vibrato is intermittently intrusive: soprano Ditte Andersen’s ‘Ich folge dir gleichfalls’ is slightly tremulous, and the choral timbres are not always perfectly clean.
The great strength of this account, though, is Minkowski’s fluid shaping of line and motion. His long experience with French Baroque music is everywhere palpable, lending balletic grace to the dance-inspired numbers, delicacy to the wind figurations, and a driving energy to the whole, which spirals inexorably to its conclusion. His orchestra, far from providing mere accompaniment, is as vital a protagonist as the singers. Indeed, there’s a chamber-like intimacy to the performance, so integrated are voices and players. The listener, too, doesn’t merely eavesdrop but partakes in the action – a communion that leaves a lasting impression.