- St. John Passion (Johannespassion), BWV 245 (BC D2)
This 2007 recording of J.S. Bach's "Johannes Passion," featuring Concerto d'Amsterdam and the Flemish vocal ensemble La Furia, uses the 1725 version of the piece, which substitutes some movements (most noticeably the opening chorus) more staid than those of the 1724 version. That decision to go for restraint rather than passion carries over to the performance style, as well, which tends to be reserved and tastefully correct rather than stirringly dramatic. It couldn't be characterized as flaccid because there is certainly a high energy level when appropriate, but even in these sections the performers seem more concerned with brisk precision than with stirring the blood. The crisp articulation of the contrapuntal sections tends to sound more academically exact than passionate. The sections that are most rhythmically free, such as the recitatives, are those where the urgency of the narrative takes flight. The anguished drama is frequently more evident in the instrumental playing than in the singing, as in Wilma van der Wardt's expressive viola da gamba obbligato in "Himmel reisse, Welt erbebe." The quality of the singing and playing is consistently high in the pure tone quality, immaculate technique, attention to period details, and musical sensitivity of the performers, but it just doesn't add up to a dramatically compelling version of the Passion. Tenor Nico van der Meel conducts and also takes the pivotal role of the Evangelist. His singing is superbly supple and warmly lyrical, and it powerfully conveys a sense of dramatic urgency that is lacking from the performance as a whole. Van der Meel's Evangelist is easily the strongest element of the recording and alone makes this a version that lovers of Bach devoted to this Passion will want to seek out, even though overall this release is not a contender for the ranks of the best recorded accounts. Quintone's sound is clean, clear, and present, but its clarity can be almost unforgivingly bright; the initial consonants, especially in the fast choral passages, tend to be sharply percussive.