- Matthäuspassion (St. Matthew Passion), BWV 244
Conductor Paul McCreesh offers a surprise with this version of the St. Matthew Passion: There is no chorus. That's right -- in this radical tactic, McCreesh follows the examples of Andrew Parrott and especially Joshua Rifkin, who have released ear-opening, one-voice-per-part recordings of the B Minor Mass. Documentary evidence suggests that Bach used similarly pared-down forces while he was chapel master in Leipzig. Evidently, McCreesh also finds this reasoning compelling, yet he sees strong artistic merits, too, arguing that the choruses are "infinitely more characterful" when sung by solo voices and that the details in the orchestral writing come through much more clearly. Listen to this recording, and most likely you'll agree. Here is a St. Matthew Passion of extraordinary transparency and elegance. True, it may lack the nth degree of dramatic impact of more traditional versions, even other "historically informed" recordings, such as John Eliot Gardiner's. Still, in its own terms, McCreesh's vision is entirely convincing and at times nothing short of revelatory. Of course, it helps to have A-list musicians, and McCreesh has assembled an impressive vocal lineup indeed, including the always-ravishing Magdalena Kozená, who delivers a sensitively phrased "Erbarme dich," Mark Padmore as a sweet-toned Evangelist, and the resonant baritone of Peter Harvey as Jesus. The Gabrieli Players offer predictably stylish orchestral support. The tempos, by and large, are leisurely -- all the better to savor the experience of this remarkable recording. Required listening for all Bachians.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This rendition of St. Matthew's Passion is a wonderful work of art. Words cannot accurately describe the beauty of the music. I will be purchasing more of McCreesh's works on the basis of this rendition.