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J.S. Bach: Matthäus-Passion
Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki
J.S. Bach: Matthäus-Passion
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (38) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (36) - Disc #2
  •  Track Listings (25) - Disc #3

From the first few seconds of the opening chorus, it's obvious that Masaaki Suzuki's reading of the St. Matthew Passion isn't after the vivid sacred drama that John Eliot Gardiner or even Philippe Herreweghe go for--or the...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki
Title: J.S. Bach: Matthäus-Passion
Members Wishing: 1
Total Copies: 0
Label: Bis
Release Date: 2/14/2000
Album Type: Import
Genre: Classical
Styles: Opera & Classical Vocal, Historical Periods, Baroque (c.1600-1750), Sacred & Religious
Number of Discs: 3
SwapaCD Credits: 3
UPCs: 675754121129, 7318591000020

From the first few seconds of the opening chorus, it's obvious that Masaaki Suzuki's reading of the St. Matthew Passion isn't after the vivid sacred drama that John Eliot Gardiner or even Philippe Herreweghe go for--or the long-winded Teutonic gloom so often found in performances of earlier generations. Suzuki seems to be approaching the St. Matthew as an occasion for devout contemplation of the Passion story rather than a reenactment of that story as music drama. There are some ferocious outbursts from the choir in the crowd scenes, but elsewhere there's gentleness, even delicacy, throughout this performance. Suzuki's marvelous Evangelist, Gerd Türk, seems to give a meditative retelling of the Passion story rather than a theatrical narration: he's extraordinarily sensitive to the nuances of the text and melody--in particular, his moments without accompaniment are breathtaking. (If you want high drama from your Evangelist, however, you'll do better with Herreweghe's Ian Bostridge.) The soloists in the arias are quite respectable (if not quite on Türk's level): very attuned to melodic contour--that is, to making music out of the melodies--but seemingly less concerned with making a strong emotional impact (no doubt a reflection of Suzuki's devotional conception of the performance). Soprano Nancy Argenta sounds somewhat shakier here than she did in the 1980s and 1990s, while countertenor Robin Blaze sounds more vocally and artistically mature with each new recording he makes. To those who look forward mainly to the churning emotion that can be found in this music, the Bach Collegium Japan's performance may seem dull, but (as with their St. John Passion) on its own terms, it's both filled with musical beauty and suffused with genuine spiritual devotion. --Matthew Westphal

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CD Reviews

A leader of the pack...
Guy Cutting | 06/10/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"J.S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion is one of the highest achievements of western composition but also of humanity as a whole. It is an essential component of any classical collection (or any collection for that matter). Also, depending on what the listener is prepared to put into the listening experience it can be intensely moving and fulfilling (its length only contributing to the experience). If you don't own a recording of this work already, this recording is a good choice for you. I'll put it in the context of the other recordings I'm familiar with: one recording conducted by Herreweghe and another by Klemperer. Herreweghe's is more dramatic, which is a good or bad thing depending on your perspective. It is probably the best choice for first exposure to the SMP because of that drama - it is a more engaging first experience. But Suzuki's version here has its own set of merits. The tempi are generally brisk (like Herreweghe's) but in a few important places (such as Kommt, ihr tochter, the opening chorus) the pace is slightly slower, giving the listener a better chance to keep pace with this enourmously intricate double choir section. Suzuki's comments in the liner notes (but more importantly his interpretive decisions) indicate that his focus here is contemplation and devotion. The evangelist, Gerd Turk, preserves a sense of understatement in this music (I mean that as a compliment) - his performance is, I think, more in keeping with the sense of the work than is Bostridge's (under Herreweghe). Peter Kooij is an excellent soloist, though I think I slightly prefer the sound of Franz-Josef Selig on the other recording. The choral sound here is good - clean and focused (slightly more, in places, than in the Herreweghe). The balance with the orchestra is good. The remaining soloists are all solid. On an aesthetic level I dislike the "period instrument" sound and musicologically I reject the authenticist position, but if you prefer that approach then this recording is for you. If not, then Klemperer's recording (from 1962 I think) would be my choice (read my review of that recording for more information). But even so I can gladly recommend Suzuki's recording. If you don't own a recording of this work, this one is a fine choice. If you are looking for another recording, this one offers some things that others don't and is a worthwhile buy."
Guy Cutting | 03/07/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"A stunning achievement. This, and Gardiner's recording on Archive/DGG, are superb. Where Suzuki has the edge is in the overall dramatic sweep. The recitatives come alive in this performance."
Guy Cutting | 04/26/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The whole disc gives great pleasure. The soundtrack is outstanding.The german language comes out well. Like the St.John's Passion by the same group, it is a great musical experience."