Bach: St Matthew Passion

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Arthaus
WORKS: St Matthew Passion
PERFORMER: Marshall, Van Nes, Baldin.Scharinger, Ahnsjo, Prey; Neuberg Choral Society, Tolz Boys Choir, Bach Collegium Munich/Enoch zu Guttenberg (Klosterkirche, Alpirsbach, 1990)
Recorded in the Klosterkirche in the Wurttemburg town of Alpirsbach in 1990, this version of Bach’s St Matthew Passion seems almost provocatively old-fashioned. It is couched in a pious style, tempi on the whole are steady and the atmosphere verges on the saccharinely sanctimonious. The orchestra is not vast but plays modern instruments in the modern way, with lots of sweet vibrato. The main choral forces are of mixed voices and medium proportions, with the Tolz Boys Choir piping out the chorale tune of the opening chorus from a high gallery just to one side of the performing stage. The sound is generous and luxuriant, however, and in our tolerant times it would be unfair to judge any performance on the basis of its stylistic starting point. What the conductor Enoch zu Guttenberg attempts to do he succeeds in doing very well, helped by his fine singing team, centred around an obviously vocally ageing Hermann Prey (Jesus) and Claes Hakon Ahnsjo (Evangelist). There are no subtitles or printed texts, and, as is usual with DVD releases, insufficient written material. Presumably Arthaus thinks the entire world knows the work and its context backwards already. The camera-work is fine, taking advantage of the lovely visual distractions the church has to offer. Stephen Pettitt