Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|J.S. Bach, Crook, Lika|
St. John Passion Bwv 245
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Discreet But Undeniably Powerful
Alexander Milner | Cambridge, United Kingdom | 09/08/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Those who enjoy Philippe Herreweghe's polished approach to Bach performance will find much to delight the ear on this recording of a seminal religious masterpiece. The vocal technique displayed is always assured, with an excellent team of soloists led by Howard Crook, particularly impressive in the demanding role of the Evangelist. Rarely, for example, has the tragic scene of Peter's denial of Jesus been recorded with such intensity. Peter Kooy and William Kendall also deserve special praise for their even-toned and deeply moving bass and tenor arias respectively.The choir, Collegium Vocale of Ghent, does not quite possess the brilliant panache of John Eliot Gardiner's Monteverdi Choir, but they sing with energy and commitment, and considerable responsiveness to the nuances of the text. The period-instrument orchestra produces a marvellous range of sonorities to match any baroque ensemble on disc, from the arrestingly poignant opening movement to to the jubilant exclamation of triumph in the alto aria 'Es ist vollbracht'. Whether the two alto arias are better sung by a male or a female singer is a question of taste. Barbara Schlick makes a pleasing mellow sound on this recording, although my own preferred singer in these arias is the countertenor Michael Chance, who performs with both the Monteverdi Choir and the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, with conductor Stephen Cleobury. (This latter recording of course also uses an all-male choir, with considerable success, and is also highly recommendable.)The St John Passion is a tautly dramatic work, and Philippe Herreweghe is a most intelligent and persuasive interpreter, heightening the sense of catastrophe subtly but powerfully, up to the dreadful moment of the crucifixion. Through conducting the work myself I have learned how many and how difficult are the challenges concerning the selection of tempi and the overall pacing of the drama. Herreweghe's speeds are always finely judged, capable of conveying the prevailing emotion with great force, whether it be malice (as in the aggressive crowd scenes), greedy excitement (as when the soldiers cast lots for Christ's clothing) or sorrowful meditation, as in many of the arias and the closing chorus. They are never so fast as to sound rushed, thereby risking detracting from the expressive capabilities of the performers (a trap into which Gardiner unfortunately falls on occasion), nor so slow as to lose momentum and interfere with the pacing of the work as a whole.In short, this recording is to be admired immensely, for the impressive contributions of all its performers, compelling sense of drama and above all for the unfailingly shrewd direction of Herreweghe himself. Indeed, so skilful is his touch that the listener is hardly aware of the presence of any controlling personality at all other than that of Bach himself: is this not the highest praise one can give to a conductor of such music?"