"This one is a highly prised version (Grammy winner and classical magazine Grammophone winner as best baroque vocal for year 2001 records and also worth mention is that this disc is the most recommended version -EVER in that magazine) and it is easy too understand why when you listen to this fantastic disc.Now we go to what I think of it...A cast that has a better "line up" than this is hard to find because they are all among the best, especially from Germany/Austria as those people mostly come from, are high class singers -ALL of them.Prégardien, Goerne, Christine Schäfer (very good on THIS one), Fink and Schade is at their best on this disc/version.Music is SOMETIMES fast but I like it that way and it is NOT so "rushed" as some rewievers complains about in MY opinion... It is def NOT fast/rushed at all more in that way than it depends on if you like slow interprets or to have it a bit quicker. This is def. NOT "rushed" but I can asure you that those times it is "rushed" it is good for the drama (yes it is also "slow" SOMETIMES as a drama effect) I think Amazons review is QUITE good BUT about that so called some "sloppy engeering" at the last disc I MIGHT MAYBY hear that a LITTLE one or two times on the last disc but it is not anything worth complaining about -in my opinion- so I dont know if there is something wrong with that specific record the reviwer (and some others) own but mine is alright in that way and it is no interups att all worth mention.I have not listen to St Matthews Passion for so long, I mean to call me an "expert" but as a relatively newcomber to this piece I am highly satisfied with this version and both chorus (Wiener Sängerknaben and Arnold Schoenberg choir) is great, absolutly fantastic on this -as the rest of the leading singers as I mentioned before.Concentus musicus Wien play this LIVELY (not "rushed")and is not "sloppy" att all... they DARE and has the guts to feel the music, live in it.Harnoncourt has done an excellent work and he understands this piece well I presume because it IS really something extra and he had recorded it three or four times before. The sound is ABSOLUTLY STUNNING, great captured from a church so it was a good team working with soundengineering and a good idea too replace it where it belongs -to a church. Sound "breaths" and are crystal clear and warm.Bonus is a beutiful book with paintings of Jesus, text to follow, insight of the story and the last disc is ALSO at your use as a CD-rom showing Bach:s notes.At last... I am sick and tired about negative people about "definitive" versions and so on.. it is NO "definitive" version and I could asure that Harnoncourt CAN read notes. This is a drama MEANT to put "live", personal feeling in and in that way this is great. Also good is Herreweghes, Suzukis and Gardiners versions but this is for ME the ABSOLUTLY BEST and you could def. NOT go wrong with this disc (and not with those mentioned either.. but I like this more than the others).Enjoy."
Missing the mark, and rushing to do so
Mark Dirksen | Beverly Mass. United States | 03/25/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The "enhanced CD" part of this recording ironically underscores the problem with the performance. Look at the score, by all means! There, in red ink, is Bach's gripping engagement with this story of stories: this is not only music, it is a total intellectual, emotional and spiritual response to the meaning of the text that is set. To mis-interpret the obvious musical gestures that Bach uses to reinforce that meaning does both him and the listener a profound disservice. No one wants Mengelberg back - but can we at least go with what's on the page?For example: when Bach sets the legato, tortuous threnody of "So ist mein Jesus nun gefangen" into motion, then shatters it with "Lasst ihn, haltet, bindet nicht!" how can the choir sound so languid and unconnected? Nor do the crowd's brutal shouts of "Barrabam" and "Lass ihn kreuzigen" have any real conviction. Again and again, the choir seems to be "just singing" - and their lack of connection with Bach's obvious dramatic intentions leaves the work half performed.All of this is by way of contrast to the magnificent and convicted solo singing, especially that of Matthias Goerne, whose Jesus rings with vivid, masculine life. Simon Heighes' review hits the high (and lesser) points on the other soloists as well - many of these arias are extraordinarily well sung. ... However, it is in the area of tempo that I find Harnoncourt really adrift. The tempos are absurdly fast in places where the music cries for breath and breadth. This reaches unfortunate levels at the cross itself, with the sublime alto aria, "Sehet Jesus hat die Hand," moving so quickly that neither oboes nor choir can possibly sound their parts adequately. And the tempo of the fabulous bass aria, "Mache dich mein Herze rein" turns it into a jolly, oversung ditty - totally missing the mixture of resignation, joy and bitter pain conveyed by the major key, compound meter and rich scoring.All these criticisms come together at what ought to the emotional climax of the piece, the penultimate "Nun ist der Herr zur Ruh gebracht", in which each soloist offers Jesus their personal farewell. The solos are fabulous - tender and resolute - but the choir flips it off: "Yeah, yeah, good night already." I don't know what Harnoncourt was thinking, but it's quite clear that Bach had something much more profound in mind.All this begs the old question: to what extent can strictly historical understandings of performance practice dictate interpretation? The answer all to often these days is "totally" - and Bach's masterpiece suffers for it. Three stars for the soloists (especially Goerne) and the enhanced CD, but look elsewhere for the depths this work demands."
A wonderful edition
Tina Morris | Rockville, MD USA | 05/30/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This recording of Bach's great St. Matthew Passion is excellent in many ways. Nikolaus Harnoncourt delivers yet another brilliant as-authentic-as-it-gets Bach rendition with the orchestra that he feels the most comfortable with, the Concentus Musicus. The Arnold Schoenberg choir is another favorite of his, and it shows in this recording. Orchestra, soloists and choir become one great musical unit, with each of them shining in their own way. Teldec has done some phantastic things since the dawning of Quicktime and enhanced CD technology, and this edition is no exception: CD #3 is an anhanced CD that you can play on your computer, and it will show you the historic full autograph score of the piece page by page as the music goes along. Fantastic! The whole album is crafted like a little book, with the CD sleeves integrated, a style that Teldec is now also using for their opera recordings, and it is indeed very convenient to have libretto/liner-notes and CD storage in this compact book format. The liner notes are very informative and extremely tastefully illustrated. A great piece alltogether! For fans of comparative listening excercises in classical music I also recommend the recording of the St.Matthew passion by Philip Herrewhege"
Harnoncourt gives the Matthaus Passion back to the church...
H. W. A. Leeuwen | Voorschoten, Netherlands | 08/14/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The present recording seems to focus from beginning to end on the suffering of christ and the great sacrifice he made for mankinf when he died on the cross. Eventhough I am not a religious person, the power of this performance is self-evident. At many points the listener is forced to consider these things, and as a result one is left completely bare before oneself. I fail to understand how Harnoncourt is able tp do this. There are the usual pinters, of course, the excellent orchestra, the great choir and the refinement of their part. There is the unusual cast, with an evangelist that for once does not have a light and recitating voice, but borders on an baritone kind of timbre, the acoustics of the church where the recording was made, and so on. I submit though that most of all it is the intensity of Harnoncourts vision on music and what it should do, what it should invoke in an audience and how to achieve this that makes the difference here. The images of the cross are burned upon the mind as the story unfolds to the ultimate high of Christ`s sacrifice. It left me completely broken down at many points and wholly stunned at the end. I litterally could now move for several minutes at the end. Do not buy this set if you like easy listening or if you do not want to be confronted."
Dragos Sabau | Bronx, NY United States | 02/07/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The potential listeners should not be discouraged by some of the reviews posted here. After all, this recording won Gramophone Award in 2001 for best vocal baroque recording. And to quote from the "Gramophone" review: "This is another major recording [...]shining like a beacon in a fairly uniform era of recorded vocal Bach. [...]In short, this is the most culturally alert reading in years. A truly original and illuminating experience [...]""