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Gottfried August Homilius: Matthäuspassion (St. Matthew Passion)
Gottfried August Homilius, Christoph Schoener, Berlin Academy for Early Music
Gottfried August Homilius: Matthäuspassion (St. Matthew Passion)
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (42) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (40) - Disc #2


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Balanced, uplifting, enjoyable - and great soloists
Leslie Richford | Selsingen, Lower Saxony | 05/14/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Gottfried August Homilius (1714 - 1785): Matthäuspassion (St. Matthew Passion). Performed by: Ann Monoyios, soprano; Ulla Groenewold, contralto; Gerd Türk, tenor; Klaus Mertens, bass; Hans-Georg Wimmer, bass; Christoph Prégardien, tenor, evangelist; capella vocale Leverkusenm dir. Christoph Schoener; Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, leader: Bernhard Forck. Recorded at Zeughaus (armory), Neuss, Germany in January 1992. Published in 1993 as Berlin Classics 1046-2 (2 CD box set with 80 page booklet including full libretto in German, English, French and Italian). Total time: 2 hrs 11 mins.

Whether you are a choir director, a church musician, a fan of 18th century sacred music or just an interested listener to inspired singing, this CD set can only be strongly recommended. Why? Well, it has a number of advantages:
1. The composer. Homilius may not be a household name, but in fact he was the leading church musician in the Saxon capital of Dresden for some 30 years between 1755 and his death in 1785. His reputation back then was excellent, and he could be considered a kind of sacred penchant to Johann Adolf Hasse, the opera composer at the Dresden court.
2. The music. Homilius' passion (the date is unknown) sticks to the pattern of the German passion as known from a generation before (Bach), with the text of the Gospel being sung by soloists representing the evangelist and the other figures involved in the story, but the whole interrupted occasionally by choral pieces for the church congregation to sing along with or by extended arias of the kind normally to be heard at the opera. The arias are longer than those of Bach and their style is more that of the age of "Empfindsamkeit", being faster in tempo and so tuneful as to invite the listener to hum along. This is, despite its sombre subject, no three-hour introspective marathon but rather a piece of theologically balanced, uplifting religious entertainment - devotional, yes, but never in the old 17th century style - this is music to enjoy and not just for meditative purposes.
3. The soloists, all of whom are early music specialists and who all, with the exception of American Ann Monoyios, are native speakers of German. Evangelist Christoph Prégardien is a real treat with his lightness of timbre and clarity of diction, but the other soloists are equally at home in this repertoire: Klaus Mertens as Jesus is superb, Ann Monoyios, Hans-Georg Wimmer and Gerd Türk all provide some lovely arias. Ulla Groenewold has only one aria, nine minutes in length, one for which her dark contralto timbre is eminently suited.
4. Choir and orchestra sound as though they are really enjoying this performance, and their sparkle jumps right out of the speakers and catches on. Just listen to those "turbae" scenes; just concentrate on those instrumental touches - or even on the continuo. Great stuff!
5. Although the acoustics of the recording venue may not have been absolutely ideal (why didn't they use a church?), the engineers have made an excellent job of their task, enabling one to hear every little detail with great presence (but without there ever being the feeling that it was too much of a good thing).
Enjoy - and not just at Easter!"