COMPOSERS: Christina Landshamer (soprano),Julian Prégardien,Kre≥imir Strazˇanac (bass-baritone),Tareq Nazmi (bass); Bavarian Radio Choir; Concerto Köln/Peter Dijkstra,Tilman Lichdi (tenor),Ulrike Malotta (mezzo)
LABELS: BR Klassik
ALBUM TITLE: Bach
WORKS: St John Passion
PERFORMER: Christina Landshamer (soprano), Ulrike Malotta (mezzo), Julian Prégardien, Tilman Lichdi (tenor), Kre≥imir Strazˇanac (bass-baritone), Tareq Nazmi (bass); Bavarian Radio Choir; Concerto Köln/Peter Dijkstra
CATALOGUE NO: BR Klassik 900909
Schumann thought the St John Passion ‘bolder, more powerful, more poetic’ than its Matthew-setting sequel and Peter Dijkstra certainly seems to agree with the first two propositions. The opening chorus whips up a maelstrom that’s angrily propulsive – almost the aural equivalent, perhaps prophetically, of a scourging. But the effect is undermined by a recorded sound that doesn’t differentiate the layers as successfully as North German Radio managed for John Eliot Gardiner’s more nuanced live broadcast performance with his Monteverdi Choir released on disc in 2011. Dijkstra’s, too, is live, but recorded over more than one performance which may account for a few improbable pauses between tracks – that opening chorus, for example, appears beached when the seconds tick by before Julian Prégardien’s commanding, intelligent, fresh-toned Evangelist finally sets the narrative ball rolling.
The Bavarian Radio Choir is a tightly-disciplined outfit, urgent and dramatically engaged in the crowd scenes, and Dijkstra ensures that the chattering chorus as the soldiers cast lots for Christ’s robe goes off like a gleeful firecracker. He’s well served throughout, incidentally, by the ever-attentive expertise of Concerto Köln. Among the soloists Tareq Nazmi’s Jesus is a quietly noble presence; and Kreimir Strazˇanac combines the role of Pilate with a tender account of the lute-embroidered ‘Betrachte, meine Seele’ and a ringingly resolute ‘Eilt, ihr angefochtnen Seelen’. Ulrike Malotta’s ‘Es ist vollbracht’ is beautifully controlled yet oddly detached, while best of all is Christina Landshamer’s ‘Ich folge dir gleichfalls’: effortless, light as a feather and radiating exquisite joy.