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Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244
Conducted by Frans Brüggen

V-2

Bach: Matthäus-Passion

 

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244

Frans Brüggen

Boys’ Choir of St Bavo’s Cathedral, Haarlem (Chorus Master: Fons Ziekman) & Nederlands Kamerkoor (Chorus Master: Klaas Stok) / Orchestra of the 18th Century

Tenor [Evangelist]: Nico van der Meel, Bass [Jesus]: Kristinn Sigmundsson; Sopranos: Maria Cristina Kiehr, Mona Julsrud; Contraltos: Claudia Schubert, Wilke te Brummelstroete; Tenors: Ian Bostridge, Toby Spence; Basses: Peter Kooy, Harry van der Kamp; Soprano [Uxor Pilati]: Tannie Willemstijn; Soprano [Ancilla I]: Adinda de Nijs; Contralto [Testis I]: Kathrin Pfeiffer; Contralto [Ancilla II]: Ananda Goud; Tenor [Testis II]: Bruce Sellers; Bass [Pilatus]: Jelle Draijer; Bass [Petrus]: Kees Jan de Koning; Bass [Judas]: Lodewijk Meeuwsen; Bass [Pontifex I]: David Barick; Bass [Pontifex II]: Hans Pootjes

Philips

Apr 1996

3-CD / TT: 160:27

Recorded live at Vredenburg, Utrecht, Holland.
Buy this album at: Amazon.com | Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de | Amazon.de

New Matthäus Passion

Ehud Shiloni wrote (August 4, 1998):
Todd Michael Billeci wrote:
< Since the "Who are the Great Voices" thread I spotted a new, live recording on Philips of the St. Matt. Passion w/ Ian Bostridge. Brüggen directs the Orchestra of the 18th Century. Anyone heard this one? It has a nasty import pricing in the U.S. & I'm hoping some of our friends across The Pond will check it out first. >
From across the pond:
Bought this one as well on my London raid. Heard it just once, on a portable discman while travelling. Read superlative review by local critic. My very premature judgement: It sounded very "nice" on many counts, but should it sound "nice"? Where is the great, engulfing drama? I am relying on Gardiner's version as my benchmark for the "drama" ingredient, and in this first, hurried hearing under not ideal conditions I wasn't fully convinced. Will have to listen to it again and will advise findings then.

Ehud Shiloni wrote (August 25, 1998):
Todd Michael Billeci wrote:
< Since the "Who are the Great Voices" thread I spotted a new, live recording on Philips of the St. Matt. Passion w/ Ian Bostridge. Brüggen directs the Orchestra of the 18th Century. Anyone heard this one? It has a nasty import pricing in the U.S. & I'm hoping some of our friends across The Pond will check it out first. >
I feel awkward playing the role of music critic, expressing naive opinions about the work of really outstanding artists, but I did promise some answers, and I see that nobody else commented, so here are a few thoughts from an unschooled listener.

I regard Brüggen highly - many splendid Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert symphonies, and also a very good B-minor Mass (BWV 232) (to say nothing about his earlier achievements as a flute and recorder pioneering HIP performer) - and I was expecting a "special" St. Matthew, but even after a second hearing I was disappointed and left "cold".

Do not get me wrong: it is indeed a very "nice" performance, but not more than that. A pity.

St. Matthew is less dramatically compelling than St. John. The action is repeatedly interrupted by a multitude of (mostly beautiful!) contemplative arias, and because of this structure any performance is constantly in danger of "disintegrating" into just a sequence of discrete musical numbers, with the overall tension being lost. A successful unification of the performance, one that maintains the tension from the opening bars over nearly three hours, depends primarily on a convincing evangelist as well as on the work of the conductor. Nico van der Meel is the evangelist here, and although his singing is very nice and musical it is not ideally suitable for the role, and it struck me as too detached. I did some comparisons with two great alternatives: Haefliger (with Richter - rightly praised here by Bob Sherman) sings in a more old fashioned way, but with great, convincing power. Rolfe-Johnson (with Gardiner) does not have Haefliger's "explosive" vocal intensity, but his singing succeeds to convey the drama with a chilling, perfectly haunting quality (I think Ambroz once said that...). Both Haefliger and R. Johnson make a dominant impact on their respective performances, and when judged against these two formidable benchmarks Van der Meel's act was no match. I cannot make a specific comment on Brüggen's directing, except to say that it affected me emotionally considerably less than Gardiner's
effort, and the great drama - for me - was not really there. Some specific pointers:

1. Singers ("Who Are The Great Voices"):
Gardiner used several singers whose particular vocal qualities, IMO, are especially suitable for the St. Matthew material. Both sopranos - Barbara Bonney and Ann Monoyios - have clear, effortlessly flowing, "angel quality" voices, which go best with "sad" or "tragic" material (this is all personal taste stuff, of course). Countertenor voices share (to my ears) similar qualities with the above soprano types, and Michael Chance's voice is the most tragically poignant. His "Erbarme Dich" has no equal among female altos (as does his "Agnus Dei" - which he sang for Brüggen!!). I think Gardiner was wise when he used his other alto - the great Van Otter - for the less tragic arias.

Now Brüggen's equivalent role singers, though basically excellent, have different voice qualities, less suitable for St. Matthew. Maria Christina Kiehr - a prodigious soprano - has a voice which IMO comes on "too strong", "attacking" rather than "flowing", and the same is true for alto Claudia Schubert. For my own pair of ears that made a difference. (Tenor Ian Bostridge is indeed as good as advertised on this list, but he was not sufficient to tip the overall scale. Bass peter Kooy - aka Kooij - is excellent, whenever and wherever he sings, no question there).

2. Netherlands Chamber Choir:
It gets a "B". Brüggen used a different choir - I think "Gulbenkian" - for his B-Mass in 1989, and the result there was better. (Later Ehud Shiloni corrected it and wrote: Please note that I made a mistake in item 2 and Brüggen did use the NBC also for his recording of the Mass in B)

3. Live recording (Vredenburg, Utrecht - same as the B-Mass):
One expects a certain unavoidable number of technical problems, but the trade-off can be the greater emotional excitement of the performers as sometimes occurs when performing and recording "live". Unfortunately there was no trade-off here. I also think the recording engineers did not do a very good job - the choir sounds muffled in some instances, soloists occasionally "drowned" by booming organ accompaniment, etc. I put on the B-Mass recording from 1989, and the acoustic picture sounded much clearer. Note that it took Phillips two (!) years from performance to the release of the CD - rescue efforts at the editing lab? Who knows? OK - enough blabber. I'll just quote Bernard Greenberg of alt.music.j-s-bach: "A passion performance that does not leave one in tears has failed". This one was a nice performance, but it "failed" me.

Best regards and sorry for the long message.

Robert M. Sherman wrote (August 26, 1998):
Thanks to Ehud Shiloni for a very thoughtful and detailed review of Brüggen's St. Matthews. You get right to the musical essence of the piece, rather than being diverted into musicology.

Ehud, what are your preferences on the St. John?

To start the ball rolling, here too Richter is my choice. Evangelist Haefliger and Christus Prey sing with musical detail, depth and dramatic intensity I haven't heard anywhere else. Alto Hertha Töpper's mournful climactic "Es Ist Vollbracht" is emotionally gripping like none other I've heard anywhere; some of this is due to her rhythmic sense, which is spot-on and melds with viola da gamba-ist Ostwald Uhl, where in most performances the alto and gamba seem strangers to each other and sloppy in their dotted-eighth and sixteenth rhythms. Richter's conception, albeit not for historical purists, is magnificent as is his chorus, although at times there's a bit too much soprano dominance. My only real complaint is Evelyn Lear's soprano caterwauling, which I would gladly replace with almost anyone.

Comments?

Ehud Shiloni wrote (August 26, 1998):
Patrick Enander wrote:
< Brüggen's record got a very good review in Gramophone but not so good in French magazines Check out Bruno Cornecs site http://www.medieval.org/emfaq/misc/rmecdfr.htm for further information.
To me it is not surprising, I might be prejudiced but after reading Gramophone for a couple of years it seems to me that the English really appreciates "nice" performances! >
I haven't checked Bruno in a long time (takes ages to download his huge continuous file...) but I did follow your advice and what do you know - Brüggen's Matt really scored very poorly with the French critics! Here are the "scores":

DIAPASON: 4
MONDE DE LA MUSIQUE: 6
REPERTOIRE: 3 (!)
CLASSICA: 6

There is no "Bruno" personal rating.

Three out of four (except Monde) were "normalized" by Bruno into a scale of 1-10 so he may have been a bit off here or there, but still the ratings are a clear vote of no confidence. I wouldn't be so harsh myself, and my "grade" would be between 6 and 7 (but I shudder at the thought of me grading an outstanding artist like Brüggen - it's quite presumptuous...).

Ehud Shiloni wrote (August 30, 1998):
Ehud Shiloni wrote:
< 2. Netherlands Chamber Choir: It gets a "B". Brüggen used a different choir - I think "Gulbenkian" - for his B-Mass in 1989, and the result there was better. >
CORRECTION!! - CORRECTION!!

I had my earphones on when I checked the B-Minor Mass, but apparently NOT my reading glasses: The Netherlands Chamber Choir was the one singing on the B-Mass as well! Sorry for the misleading information.

How do I account for the difference in impression? I checked the roster of singers, and found that more than fifty per cent of the individuals in the 1989 recordings were also present in the 1996 recording of St. Matthew, so we are really talking about the same choir. The only possible explanation has to do with my third point - the technical aspects of the handling of the live recording (I am no expert, but this is what my very untrained ears say...).

I feel awkward at my attempt to "grade" this choir, and I repeat: On the B-Mass they did shine.

Ehud Shiloni wrote (August 31, 1998):
Andrea Klassen wrote:
< How do I account for the difference in impression? I checked the roster of singers, and found that more than fifty per cent of the individuals in the 1989 recordings were also present in the 1996 recording of St. Matthew, so we are really talking about the same choir.
It has been my experience, that if half of the choir is new, it is definitely not the same choir. If the choir is, say, 40 members, and twenty of them have changed, it is going to have a huge effect on the sound in terms of timbre and quality. The argument holds true with a smaller ensemble as well: if half a quartet changes, that's a big change. >
Thanks for your comment, which, coming from a performing singer, I value highly. I know very little about music making, and my thoughts are based on just an overall, "gestalt" impressions of what I hear. Therefore I feel out of place trying to "grade" professional musicians, and I felt I was doing an injustice to the Netherlands Chamber Choir. I don't really know, but I thought it reasonable, that a professional ensemble can maintain quality over the years even though individual members leave and are replaced by new ones. Here we are talking about a period of seven years between performances, and if over half the members stayed on, the "turnover" rate was on average two or three singers per year. I thought that was "manageable". Of course there are other factors: the remaining original singers have aged by seven years, etc. Still, and notwithstanding your encouraging remark, I would like to retract my "B" grading of this choir, and attribute the lesser effect to recording problems.

Has anybody else heard this performance? We can use the input from a better pair of ears...

Ehud Shiloni wrote (August 31, 1998):
Todd Michael Billeci wrote:
< I wanted to say thanks for following up with that great review of the Matt. Pass. You should paste it into Jan's web site!
I'll use the cold cash you helped me save to treat you to lunch or dinner next time you are on this side of the pond...clearly much better spent! >
Many thanks for your kind note, and you've got yourself a deal - I am on for dinner! And I pick Fleur de Lys!... OK - not to worry, I was just kidding. I guess dinner there costs more than St. Matthew, which shows you the upside-down priorities of this strange world. When I have time I'll try to trim my "review" and put something on The Page.

Please note that although I was disappointed, I still think it is at least "Nice", and we are told that Gramophone reviewed it favourably. I also read a "5-star" rating review by a local critic whom I generally do trust. All in all I suggest that you do not write it off completely, and if you have a chance to listen to it yourself - please let me know what you think.

 

Matthäus Passion/Frans Brüggen

Ehud Shiloni wrote (September 27, 1998):
I have recently purchased the CD set released this year of Frans Brüggen's rendition of the Matthäus Passion (454-434-2), but I am somewhat disappointed at the quality of the sound on this recording. I am no expert on recordings technique, but when I compare this one to the B-Minor mass (426-238-2) recorded by Brüggen with the same orchestra and choir, also live and at the same recording location (Vredenburg, Utrecht) my conclusion is that something went wrong with the Matthäus recording, despite the fact that it was carried out seven years after the B-Mass.

My questions:

1. Was there any sound problem on this recording that you care to share with your "clients" (like me...)?
2. Why, in any event, this CD released for sale a full TWO YEARS after the live recording date (4/98 vs. 4/96)?
3. If you cannot share the above information, perhaps you can refer me to professional reviews, which covered this recording and, specifically, commented on recorded sound quality?

 

SMP by Frans Brüggen

Samuel Frederick wrote:
Frans Brüggen
Nico van der Meel [Evangelist], Kristian Sigmudsson [Christus], Maria Christina Kiehr, Claudia Schubert, Ian Bostridge, Peter Kooy [SATB I], Mona Julsrud, Wilke te Brummeströte, Toby Spence, Harry van der Kamp [SATB II].

Wonderful! Kiehr is one of my favourite sopranos.

Now if only I could find this CD. Doesn't seem to be available in the US. Is it readily available in Europe?

Matthew Westphal wrote:
[To Samuel Frederick] She's a knockout here! So is Schubert, who sounds a lot like the young Anne Sofie von Otter.

It was on the market briefly in the US as a Philips special import. I believe it's still available in Europe. (I haven't checked European Web sites for it, but I certainly saw it in stores in Europe in September.)

Wim Huisjes wrote (November 7, 1999):
[To Matthew Westphal] Saw it several times recently: it's all over the place over here.

Try www.kuijperklassiek.nl in Amsterdam.
If they can't deliver, nobody can.
For info or direct ordering:
info@kuijperklassiek.nl or
orders@kuijperklassiek.nl

Better e-mail them first, for shipping arrangements etc. Don't know how they handle foreign orders. Great place to visit though! They're very knowledgeable and reliable.

Samuel Frederick wrote (November 7, 1999):
Matthew wrote of Kiehr:
< She's a knockout here! So is Schubert, who sounds a lot like the young Anne Sofie von Otter. >
So it's Claudia, not Claudio. A mezzo? Or second soprano? No counter-tenors on this one? But you seem to have similar tastes in voices as I do, so I doubt Claudia, if she in fact sings alto, will sing much like a mezzo. Or?

< Wim wrote: Saw it several times recently: it's all over the place over here. Try www.kuijperklassiek.nl in Amsterdam. >
My browser doesn't seem to want to take me to this site. Is this address correct?

And why not say a little about Brüggen's Johannes Passion as well. My curiosity is piqued.

Steven Langley Guy wrote (November 7, 1999):
I would like to add my voice to the happy endorsement of Mr. Brüggen's SMP and my strong support for the divine MCK (Kiehr) - she brings something very special to whatever she sings. I rather like Peter Kooy too.

Ehud Shiloni wrote (November 8, 1999):
Here is a dissenting opinion about Brüggen's SMP. I am pasting here bits of an old post of mine on the "Old List". Mind you - I am no musician, and what follows is strictly my own personal impression. Here goes:

QUOTE
I regard Brüggen highly - many splendid Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert symphonies, and also a very good B-minor Mass (to say nothing about his earlier achievements as a flute and recorder pioneering HIP performer) - and I was expecting a "special" St. Matthews, but even after a second hearing I was disappointed and left "cold". Do not get me wrong: it is indeed a very "nice" performance, but not more than that. A pity. St. Matt is less dramatically compelling than St. John. The action is repeatedly interrupted by a multitude of (mostly beautiful!) contemplative arias, and because of this structure any performance is constantly in danger of "disintegrating" into just a sequence of discrete musical numbers, with the overall tension being lost.

A successful unification of the performance, one that maintains the tension from the opening bars over nearly three hours, depends primarily on a convincing evangelist as well as on the work of the conductor. Nico van der Meel is the evangelist here, and although his singing is very nice and musical it is not ideally suitable for the role, and it struck me as too detached. I did some comparisons with two great alternatives: Haefliger (with Richter - rightly praised here by Bob Sherman) sings in a more old fashioned way, but with great, convincing power. Rolfe-Johnson (with Gardiner) does not have Haefliger's "explosive" vocal intensity, but his singing succeeds to convey the drama with a chilling, perfectly haunting quality ... Both Haefliger and R. Johnson make a dominant impact on their respective performances, and when judged against these two formidable benchmarks Van der Meel's act was no match. I cannot make a specific comment on Brüggen's directing, except to say that it affected me emotionally considerably less than Gardiner's effort, and the great drama - for me - was not really there. Some specific pointers:

1. Singers ("Who Are the Great Voices"):
Gardiner used several singers whose particular vocal qualities, IMO, are especially suitable for the St. Matthews material. Both sopranos - Barbara Bonney and Ann Monoyios - have clear, effortlessly flowing, "angel quality" voices, which go best with "sad" or "tragic" material (this is all personal taste stuff, of course). Countertenor voices share (to my ears) similar qualities with the above soprano types, and Michael Chance's voice is the most tragically poignant. His "Erbarme Dich" has no equal among female altos (as does his "Agnus Dei" - which he sang for Brüggen!). I think Gardiner was wise when he used his other alto - the great Van Otter - for the less tragic arias. Now Brüggen's equivalent role singers, though basically excellent, have different voice qualities, less suitable for St. Matthews. Maria Christina Kiehr - a prodigious soprano - has a voice, which IMO comes on "too strong", "attacking" rather than "flowing", and the same is true for alto Claudia Schubert. For my own pair of ears that made a difference. (Tenor Ian Bostridge is indeed as good as advertised on this list, but he was not sufficient to tip the overall scale. Bass Peter Kooy - AKA Kooij - is excellent, whenever and wherever he sings, no question there).

2.Netherland Chamber Choir: It gets a "B". <Snip>
3.Live recording (Vredenburg, Utrecht - same as the B-Mass): One expects a certain unavoidable number of technical problems, but the trade-off can be the greater emotional excitement of the performers, as sometimes occurs when performing and recording "live". Unfortunately there was no trade-off here. I also think the recording engineers did not do a very good job - the choir sounds muffled in some instances, soloists occasionally "drowned" by booming organ accompaniment, etc. I put on the B-Mass recording from 1989, and the acoustic picture sounded much clearer. Note that it took Phillips two (!) years from performance to the release of the CD - rescue efforts at the editing lab? Who knows? OK - enough blabber. I'll just quote Bernard Greenberg of alt.music.j-s-bach: "A passion performance that does not leave one in tears has failed". This one was a nice performance, but it "failed" me.

Best regards and sorry for the long message.
UNQUOTE

I apologise, again, for such a long post. Anyway, following the above, I learned from others that the Gramophone Magazine review was highly favourable, but on the other hand all four French magazines (Diapason, Monde De la Music, Repertoire and Classica) were quite "cold" about it. Since the above post I have acquired two other versions of the SMP - Gönnenwein and Herreweghe (the 1985 version) - and, though quite different from each other, both were quite effective and topped Brüggen's.

Another input: Last month I heard Claudia Schubert, live, in a B-Minor Mass concert in Tel Aviv. Her singing was "nice", but failed to convey any great emotional impact (compared to, say, Michael Chance on Brüggen's B-Minor!).

Jane Newble wrote (November 8, 1999):
Ehud Shiloni wrote:
< I'll just quote Bernard Greenberg of alt.music.j-s-bach: "A passion performance that does not leave one in tears has failed". This one was a nice performance, but it "failed" me. >
If that is the criterion for a good performance, then I'll vote for Mengelberg and Leonhardt. I am still totalamazed at the way Mengelberg completely disregards any consistency in timing, but I find it incredibly moving.

Wim Huisjes wrote (November 8, 1999):
Ehud Shiloni wrote:
Steven Langley Guy wrote:
< I would like to add my voice to the happy endorsement of Mr. Brüggen's SMP and my strong support for the divine MCK (Kiehr) - she brings something very special to whatever she sings. I rather like Peter Kooy too. >
Thanks for sending over a great review. I only heard bits and pieces of both Brüggen's SMP & SJP on radio, so I could/can hardly comment on the whole performance. So you may be very right in stating that these performances lack "coherence".

Reminds me of the SJP by Corboz on Erato: Pilatus can either be portrayed as a very weak man, completely at a loss with the situation, or as a pragmatic, strong character who, in the end, simply took "the easy way out". A major decision in any SJP performance (much more so than in SMP). Corboz ruins his performance by choosing for the former: it loses all the excitement in the dialogues between Pilatus, the "priests" and Christus. IMO, Eugen Jochum, Wolfgang Gönnenwein, Karl Richter and others (with all reservations I have on their performances) did a lot better.

< QUOTE I regard Brüggen highly - many splendid Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert symphonies, and also a very good B-minor Mass (to say nothing about his earlier achievements as a flute and recorder pioneering HIP performer) >
OK, no quarrels here.

< A successful unification of the performance, one that maintains the tension from the opening bars over nearly three hours, depends primarily on a convincing evangelist as well as on the work of the conductor. Nico van der Meel is the evangelist here, and although his singing is very nice and musical it is not ideally suitable for the role, and it struck me as too detached. I did some comparisons with two great alternatives: Haefliger (with Richter - rightly praised here by Bob Sherman) sings in a more old fashioned way, but with great, convincing power. Rolfe-Johnson (with Gardiner) does not have Haefliger's "explosive" vocal intensity Van der Meel's act was no match. >
Agreed. But it brings me to a couple of questions. I'm not a particular fan of Rolfe-Johnson (admirable, but he does need to strain his voice too often), but the West European scene of SMP performances (ordered by time and as I can remember from recordings and live performances) in the Evangelist part was:
- Haefliger
– Equiluz
– Prégardien
Guy de Mey was around for a few years. Whatever happened to him?

< I cannot make a specific comment on Brüggen's directing, except to say that it affected me emotionally considerably less than Gardiner's effort, and the great drama - for me - was not really there. Some specific pointers:
1. Singers ("Who Are the Great Voices"):
Bass Peter Kooy - AKA Kooij - is excellent, whenever and wherever he sings, no question there). >
Take my word for it: his name is "Kooy". Not that it matters in the pronunciation.

< 2.Netherlands Chamber Choir: It gets a "B". >
Disagreed: IMO it's one of the finest choral ensembles in Europe.

< 3.Live recording (Vredenburg, Utrecht - same as the B-Mass): One expects a certain unavoidable number of technical problems, but the trade-off can be the greater emotional excitement of the performers, as sometimes occurs when performing and recording "live". Unfortunately there was no trade-off here. I also think the recording engineers did not do a very good job - the choir sounds muffled in some instances, soloists occasionally "drowned" by booming organ accompaniment, etc. Since the above post I have acquired two other versions of the SMP - Gönnenwein and Herreweghe (the 1985 version) >
Wonder why the Vredenburg was chosen for the recording. A lot of venues have better acoustics and recording arrangements: Concertgebouw, Waalse Kerk (Koopman & quite a few Leonhardt recordings), Naarden and quite a few other places. Last week a Koopman cantata concert was recorded for radio at the Vredenburg. The microphone set-up seemed rather clumsy, compared to the more sophisticated one at the Concertgebouw.

Gönnenwein's SMP & SJP (both very cheaply on EMI nowadays): highly recommended. Non-HIP (if anybody cares, and why should they?), the choir (very) sometimes a bit sloppy but with excellent soloists, middle sized choir and orchestra. He certainly keeps the drama going, especially in SJP. (The SJP choir "Lasset uns denn nicht zerteilen" by Gönnenwein and Jochum are the best I know of).

Ehud Shiloni wrote (November 9, 1999):
Wim Huisjes wrote:
< I only heard bits and pieces of both Brüggen's SMP & SJP on radio, so I could/can hardly comment on the whole performance. So you may be very right in stating that these performances lack "coherence" >
Thanks, Wim, for your enlightening comments. My review related only to the SMP - I don't have Brüggen's SJP, but I think that I'll try to buy it and hope for the best...

< The West European scene of SMP performances (ordered by time and > as I can remember from recordings and live performances) in the Evangelist part was:
Haefliger >
Indeed, great performances with Richter on both SMP+SJP!

< - Equiluz >
Highly effective on some cantata recordings which I have. Heard great things about his evangelist roles for Harnoncourt, but my shopping cart is not there yet.

< - Prégardien
Guy de Mey was around for a few years. Whatever happened to him? >
I believe he did the SMP evangelist for Koopman. "Nice", but not especially engaging.

< 2.Netherlands Chamber Choir: It gets a "B". <Snip>
Disagreed: IMO it's one of the finest choral ensembles in Europe. >
In Brüggen's Mass in B-Minor they sound excellent. On the SMP there is a lot amiss. Conclusion: Probably technical problems of the recording (see later).

< Wonder why the Vredenburg was chosen for the recording. >
Again: Brüggen recorded the B-Minor live at Vredenburg, IMHO very successfully. Must attribute the "deficiencies" to matters of recording technicalities, placing of microphones, etc.

< A lot of venues have > better acoustics and recording arrangements: Concertgebouw, >
Now we are talking about Heaven-on-Earth! Fantastic acoustics! Highly recommended for any kind of music, even if non-Bach (Harry - are you reading this? My two cents for your upcoming Amsterdam visit!).

< Last week a Koopman cantata concert was recorded for radio at the Vredenburg. The microphone set-up seemed rather clumsy, compared to the more sophisticated one at the Concertgebouw. >
See what I mean?

< Gönnenwein's SMP & SJP (both very cheaply on EMI nowadays): highly recommended. <Snip> He certainly keeps the drama going, especially in SJP. (The SJP choir "Lasset uns denn nicht zerteilen" by Gönnenwein and Jochum are the best I know of). >
Wow! This is the very piece I call: "My personal acid test for a good St. John"!

So far, out of all the versions I know, I find Gardiner's "Lasset" to be the most riveting. Thanks, Wim, for the above "tip" - I am off to get hold of these two!

Thanks again for your comments.

 

Matthäus Passion recommendations

Matthew Westphal wrote (March 28, 2000):
Ryan Michero wrote:
<< NB Does anybody know how to search past postings of the group?. I have tried dejanews, but I haven't found anything about Brüggen's Matthaus Passion, and I seem to recall there were some postings in the group when the recording appeared.
There has been a little discussion about the Brüggen Matthaus Passion, but not much, probably due to the unavailability of this recording in some places. Sorry, there aren't any archives of the postings of this list. >>
Philip Peters wrote:
< It was discussed at r.m.c.r. where it got a pretty bad press..... You can find it at Dejanews. >
At different times the Brüggen SMP has been discussed at both rec.music.classical.recordings and alt.music.j-s-bach. It didn't get an entirely bad press -- I like it a great deal and said so there. (One comment that really irked me was when someone wrote that the Brüggen "must be judged a failure" and left it at that - not a word of explanation.) Brüggen's chorus and orchestra and perfectly good (but not extraordinary in a crowdefield with more than one extraordinary chorus and orchestra). I think Herreweghe and Suzuki have equally good (the best) choirs-and-orchestras -- the difference is all in how the conductor has them approach the music. Suzuki takes a very meditative approach to the Passions: I think he genuinely sees performing them as an act of worship and prayer -- this gives his performances a subdued quality that will strike some as dull. Herreweghe II is more dramatic and energized. Brüggen's strength in the SMP is his soloists. Those who have said that those soloists are "uneven" are, I wager, talking about Nico van der Meel, the Evangelist, who is not equipped with a Bostridge-or-Agnew-style gorgeous
instrument. Some will hate him; I think he's the best narrator I've ever heard in the Passions. Everyone seems impressed with Kiehr; Schubert doesn't sound boy-like but does sound a great deal like the young von Otter (as in Gardiner's Christmas Oratorio). NONE of the soloists are at all weak, IMHO.

I did a review of this title for Amazon.com. As the title is out off-print and the review is otherwise unavailable, I'll reproduce it here, but the copyright is Amazon's, not mine.

**********
TITLE: Bach: St. Matthew Passion BWV 244
ARTIST: van der Meel, Sigmundsson; Kiehr, Julsrud, Schubert, te
Brummelstroete, Bostridge, Spence, Kooy, van der Kamp; Netherlands Chamber
Choir; Orchestra of the 18th Century; Frans Brüggen cond.
LABEL: Philips
CATALOG: 454 434-2
REVIEW: The chorus and orchestra are in fine form here-as is the case in many period-instrument Passions. What sets this one apart are Brüggen's soloists, who range from excellent to extraordinary. Kiehr is a marvel-using barely a drop of vibrato, she is very expressive and perfectly in tune. Bostridge uses a smidgen too much vibrato, but his beautiful tone and subtle, committed delivery are on full display. Most striking of all is Brüggen's Evangelist. Nico van der Meel has a much lighter, whiter voice than is usual in this role; many would dismiss him as a pale half-voice. Yet whatever he lacks in sumptuous vocalism he more than makes up in narrative skill-this may not be great singing, but it is gripping storytelling.
Copyright Amazon.com 1998, 2000.
*****************

 

Brüggen St. Matthew sound problems?

Ryan Michero wrote (April 19, 2000):
I am in the midst of listening to Brüggen's recording of the St. Matthew for the first time. I am so far quite impressed by the performance, but I am nonetheless troubled by some strange problems with the sound.

I realize this release is cobbled together from various live performances, but some parts sound suspiciously pasted together, like performances of the same movement from different occasions were cut together for one track. This seems to happen in the opening chorus: Right as the final chord hits the quality of the sound changes dramatically, sounding quiet and muffled. What's going on here? Some of the passages between the Evangelist and Jesus sound muffled, as if digitally processed to take out extraneous crowd noises. And worst of all, about 30s into Claudia Schubert's first alto recitative "Du lieber Heiland du", there is a loud POP! in the sound and a word is skipped over!

My question to anyone in the group that has heard this recording (and I know you have, Matthew!): Are my disc pressings defective or is this simply a problem in the source materials for Brüggen's live recording? I'm surprised reviews I've read haven't mentioned these problems (if they are inherent in the source materials) as they are seriously distracting me from the music. Should I just learn to live with them?

Matthew Westphal wrote (April 23, 2000):
(To Ryan Michero) I've just been listening to it again and I don't hear the particular problems you describe. The editing seems to me to be fairly good. I do hear some small problems I overlooked previously (e.g., Schubert goes a bit out of tune during the duet "So ist mein Jesu nun gefangen", the Netherlands Chamber Choir doesn't always sing as cleanly as it might) and the whole pace is more relaxed than I remembered, but I do still quite like it, especially for the soloists.

Ehud Shiloni wrote (April 24, 2000):
Ryan Michero wrote:
< I am in the midst of listening to Brüggen's recording of the St. Matthew for the first time. I am so far quite impressed by the performance, but I am nonetheless troubled by some strange problems with the sound. >
I had the same impression when I heard it for the first time. Being a great fan of Brüggen I had great expectations from this recording but unfortunately it turned out to be quite a disappointment.

< I realize this release is cobbled together from various live performances >
You may have discovered the "secret" of this poor result! BTW, Ryan, how did you find this fact? I see that the recording "date" is specified as "4/1996" without giving the day of the month, and now it all makes sense - somehow I overlooked this strange anomaly until now!

< But some parts sound suspiciously pasted together, like performances of the same movement from different occasions were cut together for one track. This seems to happen in the opening chorus: Right as the final chord hits the quality of the sound changes dramatically, sounding quiet and muffled. What's going on here? >
It sounds the same on my CD as well.

< Some of the passages between the Evangelist and Jesus sound muffled, as if digitally processed to take out extraneous crowd noises. >
Right!

< And worst of all, about 30s into Claudia Schubert's first alto recitative "Du lieber Heiland du", there is a loud POP! in the sound and a word is skipped over! >
This problem is absent from my CD: No "Pop" and all the words in place. Could that be a Scratch on your CD?

< My question to anyone in the group that has heard this recording (and I know you have, Matthew!): Are my disc pressings defective or is this simply a problem in the source materials for Brüggen's live recording? >
Except from the absent "Pop" I do find many problems. Wait till you reach CD-3 track#2 the great passion choral "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden" - the result is a disaster.

< I'm surprised reviews I've read haven't mentioned these problems (if they are inherent in the source materials) as they are seriously distracting me from the music. Should I just learn to live with them? >
I did post an "amateur review" on the "old List" where I complained bitterly about the problems with the recorded sound. I was told by another List member that the reviews on the French magazines were less than enthusiastic [unlike the favourable Gramophone review]. I went so far as asking Philips by e-mail if they had any technical problems, and I pointed out that it took an unusually long two [!] years from recording date to release date, but there was nothing helpful in their "evasive" reply. They did not even mention the pasting together of material from different performances, as you found out, Ryan.

I take this opportunity to chip in my two cents about SMP favourites, in order of preference:

1. Gardiner [on the strength of my personal "first heard" experience, dramatic approach, and Michael Chance]

2. Richter [Haefliger as evangelist is very powerful]

3. Gönnenwein [Another non-HIP with a punch]

4. Herreweghe first version [sorry - don't have the new one yet...] where I did not mind the "echo" quality of the recording about which others complained.

And the ones I like less:

5. Koopman - which appears to sound very similar to Gardiner, and I cannot put my finger exactly on what it is that makes the overall effect somewhat "ordinary" and less moving.

6. Brüggen - Which is not really bad overall, but does not rise above an overall mark of "7" because of the recorded sound problems, and because I personally find Van der Meel's beautiful singing to be less appropriate for the tragic story-telling of the Passion.

Deborah Carroll wrote (April 25, 2000):
[To Ehud Shiloni] I read your review (very helpful thank you), and there was one item in particular that struck my attention: your description of a "pop" sound.

Last year I purchased part of the "Complete Cantatas," conductedby Ton Koopman. The popping sound occurred on most of the tracks, along with a crackling sound, and a constant skipping of sections. These defects were so pronounced that I feared for my speakers. Subsequently I had to return all but two of the series.

It is very hard for me to believe that these problems escaped both the sound engineers or the record company, Erato. Thanks!

Kirk McElhearn wrote (April 25, 2000):
[To Deborah Carroll] That kind of sound usually comes from a pressing problem.

 

Brüggen's SMP reissue

Paul Dirmeikis wrote (October 6, 2004):
Just found on Amazon.fr that Brüggen's SMP has been reissued with a very
attractive price (17,90 euros). ( http://www.amazon.fr/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000076GYK/ )

Before McCreesh and Enoch zu Guttenberg, Brüggen was my favorite for many years.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (October 6, 2004):
[To Paul Dirmeikis] That's interesting, that the re-issue has only just been made available in France - it appeared in the UK over a year ago. I wonder if his B minor Mass (BWV 232) and SJP (BWV 245) will ever return to the catalogue....

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 6, 2004):
[To Paul Dirmeikis] I enjoy that recording, too. (Live, 1996, Utrecht; 2002 reissue by Decca Music Group Ltd.) Found it about half a year ago at a Borders Bookshop surplus shop at an outlet mall, for $20 USD.

 

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244: Details
Recordings: 1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019 | Individual Movements
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | BWV 244a | BWV 244b
Systemetic Discussions:
Part 1: Mvts. 1-8 | Part 2: Mvts. 9-20 | Part 3: Mvts. 21-29 | Part 4: Mvts. 30-40 | Part 5: Mvts. 41-50 | Part 6: Mvts. 51-57 | Part 7: Mvts. 58-63b | Part 8: Mvts. 63c-68 | Part 9: Role of the Evangelist
Individual Recordings:
BWV 244 - L. Bernstein | BWV 244 - F. Brüggen | BWV 244 - J. Butt | BWV 244 - R. Chailly | BWV 244 - S. Cleobury | BWV 244 - J. Daus | BWV 244 - D. Fasolis | BWV 244 - W. Furtwängler | BWV 244 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 244 - W. Gönnenwein | BWV 244 - P. Goodwin | BWV 244 - E.z. Guttenberg | BWV 244 - N. Harnoncourt | BWV 244 - P. Herreweghe | BWV 244 - R. Jacques | BWV 244 - H.v. Karajan | BWV 244 - O. Klemperer | BWV 244 - T. Koopman | BWV 244 - S. Koussevitzky | BWV 244 - S. Kuijken | BWV 244 - F. Lehmann | BWV 244 - G. Leonhardt | BWV 244 - P.J. Leusink | BWV 244 - E.&R. Mauersberger | BWV 244 - H. Max | BWV 244 - P. McCreesh | BWV 244 - W. Mengelberg | BWV 244 - K. Münchinger | BWV 244 - R. Norrington | BWV 244 - G. Oberfrank | BWV 244 - S. Ozawa | BWV 244 - A. Parrott | BWV 244 - G. Ramin | BWV 244 - S. Rattlr | BWV 244 - K. Richter | BWV 244 - H. Rilling | BWV 244 - H.J. Rotzsch | BWV 244 - H. Scherchen | BWV 244 - G. Solti | BWV 244 - C. Spering | BWV 244 - M. Suzuki | BWV 244 - J.v. Veldhoven | BWV 244 - B. Walter | BWV 244 - F. Werner | BWV 244 - M. Wöldike
Articles:
Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244 [T.N. Towe] | Two Easter St. Matthew Passions (Plus One) [U. Golomb] | St. Matthew Passion from Harnoncourt [D. Satz] | The Passion according to Saint Matthew BWV 244 [J. Rifkin] | The Relationship between BWV 244a (Trauermusik) and BWV 244b (SMP Frühfassung) [T. Braatz] | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 - Early History (A Selective, Annotated Bibliography) [W. Hoffman] | Spiritual Sources of Bach's St. Matthew Passion [W. Hoffman] | Bach and the "Great Passion" [D.G. Lebut Jr.] | The Genesis of Bach's `Great Passion': 1724-29 [W. Hoffman] | Early Performances of Bach's SMP [T. Braatz]

Frans Brüggen: Short Biography | Orchestra of the 18th Century | Recordings of Vocal Works | General Discussions
Individual Recordings:
BWV 232 - F. Brüggen | BWV 244 - F. Brüggen | BWV 245 - F. Brüggen

Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127

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Last update: ýMarch 3, 2009 ý20:31:02