- St. John Passion (Johannespassion), BWV 245 (BC D2)
Bach: Johannes-Passionby René Jacobs
The external graphics of this recording of Bach's "St. John Passion" by conductor René Jacobs and the RIAS Kammerchor, with a similar set of soloists to those who appeared on Jacobs' "St. Matthew Passion" recording, promise various innovations, and the notes delve into more. A DVD version of the performance is included. The recording offers the usual 1749 "revised" version of the work, adding material from the 1725 version in both the CD and the download versions, and including some interesting reflections on whether one can speak at all of an authentic version of a work that evolved to the degree that this one did. There are some innovations in the placement of the musicians, moving the choir up to a point next to the orchestra, with only the "expanded" choir of the chorales in back, and this works well: the words of the choir are given striking immediacy in this way. The size of that choir, too, may be considered an innovation in these days of competing full-choir and one-voice-per-part versions; Jacobs expresses scorn toward the latter solution but makes a sure to be controversial move of his own, employing a larger choir for the chorales than for the polyphonic choral passages even in the absence of any documentary support for such a configuration. The basic idea, however, is defensible: Jacobs finds in the work a "concerto principle," going all the way back to a 1920 remark of musicologist Arnold Schering: Bach's "concerto principle" as applied to choral music added "a surprising and clearly perceptible gradation of sound." All these small details add up to something absolutely distinctive: a small but not chamber-sized performance that strains for maximum expressiveness (although not operatic "drama") at every turn. From the magnificent motet-like opening chorus onward this is a performance with extraordinary depth and power. The soloists, above all the luscious soprano Sunhae Im and the commanding tenor Werner Güra as the Evangelist (who does not emerge from the choir like the other soloists on the theory that the vocal ordeal would be too severe), do their part, and the small choir matches them in precise effect. Sample one of the more active scenes, such as the Jews' demands of Pilate (CD one, track 23), for a taste of this recording's combination of immediacy and elevation. But know that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Very highly recommended.
- Release Date:
- Harmonia Mundi Fr.
Performance CreditsRené Jacobs Primary Artist
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