- St. John Passion (Johannespassion), BWV 245 (BC D2)
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Anyone seeking a reliable, historically informed rendition of J.S. Bach's "St. John Passion" would do well to consider this exceptional recording by Cappella Amsterdam and the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century, conducted by early music pioneer Frans Brüggen. The high quality of the singing recommends it, especially the performances of Markus Schäfer as the Evangelist and Thomas Oliemans as Jesus, and the other soloists and chorus convey the story of the Passion of Christ with eloquence and gravitas. The original instruments and authentic period style of the playing give the instrumental parts a strikingly plangent quality, which is perhaps most vivid in the oboes, whose chains of suspensions are among the most affecting characteristics of this work. While the performers are all in top form, the recording process may be the one aspect listeners will question. The "St. John Passion" was recorded live in Rotterdam, Haarlem, and Leiden, so the quality of the sound is variable from one hall to the next, and highly echoic in many tracks. Ostensibly taken from the best takes of these performances, and assembled to give the impression of one event, there are nonetheless significant differences in the placement of the voices and in the closeness of the orchestra that may indicate some changes in microphone placement. Beyond these subtle points, this is still a terrific package that serves the music well and bears comparison with other period versions.