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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 John Eliot Gardiner

Recording

V-2

J.S. Bach: St. Matthew Passion · Matthäus-Passion · Passion Selon St Matthieu

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244

John Eliot Gardiner

Monteverdi Choir & London Oratory Junior Choir (Chorus Master: Patrick Russill) (Mvts. 1, 35) / English Baroque Soloists

Tenor [Evangelist]: Anthony Rolfe-Johnson; Baritone [Jess]: Andreas Schmidt; Soprano [Nos. 18, 19, 33, 77; Pilate's Wife]: Barbara Bonney; Soprano [Arias Nos. 12, 57, 58]: Ann Monoyios; Contralto [Arias Nos. 10, 11, 36, 60, 61, 77]: Anne Sophie von Otter; Counter-tenor [Nos. 33, 47, 69, 70; 1st Witness]: Michael Chance; Tenor [Arias, No. 77; 2nd Witness]: Howard Crook; Baritone [Nos. 28, 29, 65, 66, 77; Peter; Pilate; High Priest; 1st Priest]: Olaf Bär; Bass [Nos. 51, 74, 75; Judas; 2nd Priest, Pontifex]: Cornelius Hauptmann; Soprano [1st Maid]: Ruth Holton; Soprano [2nd Maid]: Gillian Ross

Archiv Produktion

Apr 1988

3-CD / TT: 157:24

Recorded at The Maltings, Snape, Aldeburgh, England.
Buy this album at: Amazon.com

Passion Music

Ryan Michero wrote (April 11, 1998):
I hope everyone listened to a Bach passion setting on Good Friday! Yesterday, I chose to listen to my St. John Passion recording conducted by John Eliot Gardiner. Wow! I've heard a lot of people complain about Gardiner's quick tempi in the group, but nothing at all sounded too fast for me on this recording. Indeed, the pacing was perfect in my mind, really bringing out the drama in this more overtly "dramatic" of Bach's passions. And the choral pieces were absolutely electrifying! The savage outbursts of the Jews ("Kreuzigen!") really sounded savage in Gardiner's hands (thanks to the incredible Montiverdi Choir). And he is refreshingly sensitive to the text of the passion (very important in Bach's sacred music, especially in the tone-painting heavy St. John), coloring the tone of the choir and orchestra beautifully to match the words. The chorale movements are beautifully handled (if not in strict accordance with current notions of authenticity), with lines dynamically shaded according to the text. Alternately, the choir sounds grand, noble, mournful, meek, and ecstatic, and the myriad moods of the chorales are dramatically expressed. Probably my favorite moment in the work is the opening chorus. Of course, the music is incredible, and it would be hard to screw up music this great, but Gardiner really brings out the tension and release inherent in the score. The choral singing is wonderful, and the orchestra sounds great, with the pungent dissonances in the oboes slicing through the texture and the bass pedal points spine-tinglingly resonant. I got chills with every modulation to the dominant--a simple device, but how effective it is!

Bring on the cantata recordings, John Eliot!

Ambroz Bajec-Lapajne wrote (April 13, 1998):
< Ryan Michero wrote: ... Bring on the cantata recordings, John Eliot! >
... and as soon as possible...

I have been, on the other hand, listening to St. Matthew passion by JE Gardiner. And someone earlier in the group was asking for the "best" recordings of the Passions. This St. Matthew is for me the best recording I've ever heard. The Evangelist (one of the most important figures in the passion) is Anthony Rolfe-Johnson and he is just magnificent. His voice in so calming and soft, his singing technique exquisite and he is the best narrator. He tells the story with such wonderful persuasiveness that it just draws you to the story. With other recordings I always used to skip the Evangelist's parts, since they were so boring and unimaginative, listening only to choruses and arias. By this one I couldn't wait to her the Evangelist again. Anthony Rolfe-Johnson is delivering the strong biblical text with Bach's even stronger musical understanding of these words like no one else. The whole recording is a drama (there has been discussion earlier on the operatic stile of the passions performance) and if so recorded (or performed), an opera (at least from the dramatic point of view), beginning with the opening chorus "Kommt, ihr Töchter, helt mit klagen / O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig".

Other singers (as well as the Monteverdi Choir and the EBS) are also marvellous. The alto aria "Erbarme dich, mein Gott" is undoubtedly one of the outstanding recordings of this piece - all the credits going to Michael Chance.

Just one word for the 3-CD pack: Bravo!


SMP by John Eliot Gardiner

Arthur Jerijian
wrote (December 11, 1999):
I happen to have John Eliot Gardiner's recording of the St. Matthew Passion. However, I've been hearing that his recording is not the best and that I should switch to something else. Since these CD's were outrageously expensive, should I switch to a different recording, possibly the new one by Herreweghe?

Philip Peters wrote (December 11, 1999):
I haven't heard the new Herreweghe yet (but I'll buy it unheard). Still, I find the Gardiner really very good. I think you shouldn't switch, as there is so much in this music that almost every performance teaches you at least something. It is my opinion that everyone should have at least two SMP's: a HIP one (Gardiner or perhaps the new Herreweghe) and a non-HIP one (preferably Klemperer or Mengelberg).

Steven M. Osborn wrote (December 12, 1999):
(To Philip Peters) Is there supposed to be much difference between Herreweghe's last one and his new one?

Ferdinando Boccazzi Varotto wrote (December 12, 1999):
(To Arthur Jerijian) The opinions about recording are one of the less objective things you can imagine: The Gardiner's recording is, without any doubt, one of the most celebrated ones, but, of course, it can't please everybody. The Herreweghe edition is very interesting too, but I can't say it's better or worse than the Gardiner's one... You can always find somebody ready to claim that this edition or that edition is the best, but after all it's ALWAYS a personal opinion. My idea is that you must listen to the records before you buy, to grow up you own opinion. Anyway both the Gardiner and the Herreweghe editions are considered top recordings (but aren't the only ones...)

I hope you understand what I mean (my English is so poor...)

Steven Langley Guy wrote (December 12, 1999):
(To Arthur Jerijian) Stick with Gardiner it is a perfectly acceptable recording and save up for two sets - From the past - the Harnoncourt TELDEC recording Back to the future - the New Herreweghe on HARMONIA MUNDI

Sure, they're all expensive but with these three you'll have three interpretations that exhibit enthusiasm for this music in three different decades of this century - 1970's, 1980's & 1990's. Don't ever sell or give away any recording of this work if it communicates something to you.

Donald Satz wrote (December 12, 1999):
Steve asked about the difference between the previous and new Herreweghe recording. I think they are fairly similar in that Herreweghe gives a relatively intense performance with excellent weight. The new version is more polished.

I prefer both Herreweghe recordings to the Gardiner. Gardiner tends to be a theatrical conductor in Bach, and I love that approach in the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248), but not in the St. Matthew Passion.

As another member indicated, there's no reason to "switch" Gardiner to Herreweghe or another recording. Just make sure to add one of the Herreweghe versions. I'd give the new Herreweghe a little edge if for no other reason than the CD-ROM disc. Also, recorded sound is a little better.

John Downes wrote (December 12, 1999):
(To Donald Satz) I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the truly outstanding difference between the two Herreweghe sets, namely that on the new one you get Andreas Scholl whereas the old one had Rene Jacobs.

There's just no comparison.

Johan van Veen wrote (December 13, 1999):
(To John Downes) Although you don't say so, I suppose you prefer Scholl. I have heard Scholl many times, and although he has great qualities and a fine voice, as far as interpretation is concerned, I prefer Jacobs any time. Scholl is just too smooth, too fluent. Jacobs could produce some ugly sounds, if the text was asking for it. Jacobs is far more expressive, in my view. I haven't heard the whole recording, only some extracts on Belgian radio in the last couple of weeks. I am not very enthusiastic about both versions. In particular the Evangelist is disappointing in both. In the older one it is Howard Crook, whom I only like in French music. He is too superficial. Ian Bostridge in the new version is just no match for the likes of Christoph Prégardien, Nico van der Meel, Kurt Equiluz etc. He is too traditional in his style of singing and doesn't make enough of the text. I can't comment on the whole recording, of course, because my impression from what I have heard isn't very positive.

Jane Newble wrote (December 13, 1999):
(To John Downes) You beat me to it. René Jacobs was for me the one big flaw with the old Herreweghe. And although I would not want to part with the old one, Andreas Scholl is a far better choice for singing the alto arias in a meaningful way.


Gardiner performances of SMP

MB wrote (March 21, 2005):
Sir John Eliot Gardiner has just finished a tour with his ensembles The Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists and also the Trinity Boy´s Choir. The tour included performances of the St. Matthew Passion (in the version of 1736) in:

Stiftskirche (Kaiserdom), Königslutter, Germany
Alte Oper, Frankfurt, Germany
Cadogan Hall, London
Madrid, Spain and
Valencia, Spain.

I attended the concerts in Königslutter and Frankfurt.

Unfortunately I´m not a professional musician, so I can just report what I saw and heard and I hope that you will have a good idea what happened. I also have to tell you that English is not my native language so I apologize in advance for any mistakes.

It was a Last-minute-decision to visit Königslutter, following a vacation trip in the same area. So the tickets were also "Last-minute" - cheap, no view, not the best sound. But we were amazed by the solemn atmosphere in this 870-year old cathedral which was filled with about 1200 enthusiastic people. The stage was located in the middle of the church. It was Gardiner's idea to bring more people close to the performers. The very nice more-than-40-page-booklet was exemplary. It contains the full cast of the choirs as well as the history of both ensembles, the CV of Mark Padmore (Evangelist) and Dietrich Henschel (Christus) and of course Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Furthermore it includes the whole text of the St. Matthew Passion.

The booklet in Frankfurt was much smaller, the text was not fully correct and unfortunately the list of announced soloists was not up to date. But this did not dimnish the enjoyment of the top quality-performance.

The Monteverdi Choir (8 sopranos, 6 altos, 6 tenors and 6 basses) was splitted in two choirs. It was visible that there were a lot of young singers between the Montverdi Choir-"veterans" like Suzanne Flowers and Julian Clarkson.

The English Baroque Soloists were also splitted in two orchestras (Leader EBS I: Maya Homburger; Leader EBS II: Kati Debretzeni) and contained 34 players. There were two continuo organs; one (the beautiful 6-stop Jennings- organ which was used during the Bach Cantata Prilgrimage in 2000) was placed between the two choirs and played by Silas Standage. The other one was placed behind the violins of the second orchestra right beside the hapsichord (both played by Howard Moody).

It is not easy to give anybody the title "star of the evening". There were too many highlights. Mark Padmore is definitely the ideal singer for the role of the Evangelist. He took time to sing his parts with feeling and colour and passion. Another highlight were the young soloists Elin Manahan Thomas (beautiful clear soprano) and Clare Wilkinson who sung nearly all alto-parts with a beautiful voice and so much passion.

Other soloists were Katherine Fuge (as always excellent!),
Mark Chambers (countertenor / arias 51/52);
Andrew Staples (tenor / arias 34/35);
Julian Clarkson (bass / aria 42) and
Matthew Brook (bass / arias 23/23).

The whole performance was different from Gardiner's 1988 recording. This time the listener had not the feeling that the performers are just technical perfect but perhaps not really equiped with the right feeling for such a high religious work. It was clear that Gardiner changed his mind about this work (perhaps caused by the experience gained during the preperation or during the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage?).

Especially the chorales were very different, not so hasty, with more dynamic - sometimes with a wunderful softness or powerful at other times. After the first choral I had the feeling that all the costs for the journey and the expensive tickets (in Frankfurt) were already rewarded more than enough. And as the evening progressed there were many times I had this feeling.

With the beautiful playing and singing Gardiner and the performers led the audience into an atmosphere of deep emotion.

At other times they really shocked the audience (in a positive manner). Example: After the very long aria 49 "Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben" Mark Padmore and both choirs jumped up immediate, Padmore cried out very powerful "Sie schriiiiiiiien aber noch mehr und sprachen" and the choir cried out loud and powerful "Lasst ihn kreuzigen!!". I can´t find the words for the atmosphere during this.. If there were some less minded people in the audience who took a nap during the aria this was the wake-up call.

During the performance it was visible that the perfomers were very moved as well. Some of them closed their eyes and shaked their heads very slightly while listening to the music. And I saw many people around me who were moved to tears.

After the last tone it was totally quiet in the concert hall. No one was coughing. Absolutely NO noise from more than 2000 people! What an holy atmosphere!!!!

After a long moment Gardiner and the fantastic singers and players earned standing ovations.

In an interview Gardiner told a German newspaper a short while ago that it is his goal that all people in the concert, singers, players, listeners are believing in the moment when they hear this music. After this undescribeable experience I can say:

Mission accomplished!! Thank you very much!!

After the concert I had the chance to talk briefly with some of the soloists (who kindly signed my socre) and Sir John Eliot and his wife Isabella. She told me that the next BCP recording will be available in May. You can also go to www.solideogloria.co.uk for details. The page was just updated.

P.S.:
In the progamme notes of the concert in Königslutter there was a note that in December this year they will undertake a cantata tour through Europe including a performance on 15. December 2005 with Christmas Cantatas and the Magnificat in a church in Wolfenbüttel which is not far from Hannover in Germany.

Best wishes from Cologne,

John Pike wrote (March 21, 2005):
[To MB] Many thanks for this, Martin. I rarely read reviews of concerts I haven't been to, but this one really caught my eye, and it was a real joy to read.

Bob Henderson wrote (March 22, 2005):
I agree. Thanks for the wonderful review. There is renewed interest here in Gardiner after hearing his new cantata recordings. These strike me as a more nuance, gentle, less driven than previous recordings. You are fortunate that you have the opportunity to hear JEG in concert. Even were he to tour the US he is unlikely to come here. Florida.

Eric Bergerud wrote (March 22, 2005):
[To Bob Henderson] I saw Gardiner and the ORR about a year ago. A great hit and even the SF Chronicle's miserable critic was impresed. I really wonder if Gardiner might be one of those people who gets better when the heat's on - and I bet a live performance of the SMP gets the pulse beating fast. I'm sure that everyone has an off night, but it's rare to see a bad review of a live Gardiner performance.

Robin Kinross wrote (March 22, 2005):
[To MB] Thanks to MB for his fine and, I believe, accurate review of the Gardiner SMP in Konigslütter and Frankfurt. I wish newspaper critics could be as precise in their descriptions and open-eared in their responses.

I heard one of the performances in London (Cadogan Hall, 10 March) and was almost as impressed as Martin was, though missed some of the atmosphere of a church setting. (The Cadogan Hall is a converted Christian Science church, built in the early 1900s, and very secular in feeling, though a good venue for this piece in other respects.)

The British reviewers I have seen were very sour, however, and struggled with the use of soloists from the choir -- which for me was one of the great things of this performance.

The Guardian reviewer seemed only to have the 1989 Gardiner recording in her ears: http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/reviews/story/0,11712,1435148,00.html

Then there were these pieces:
http://www.classicalsource.com/db_control/db_concert_review.php?id=2432
http://www.musicweb.uk.net/SandH/2005/Jan-Jun05/bach1003.htm

and The Times (March 11, 2005) had this:

St Matthew Passion
John Allison at Cadogan Hall, SW1

WITH Easter coming early this year, the seasonal glut of Bach Passions is already upon us. There must be lots of music lovers crying out for a little more variety, wishing programmers would have the imagination to offer a work such as Beethoven’s more humanistic take on the story, Christ on the Mount of Olives, and longing to hear a conductor like John Eliot Gardiner blaze his way through it. But if it’s got to be Bach, Gardiner and his forces can normally be relied on to deliver performances a cut above the rest.

Normally — yet something went seriously wrong here, despite the fact that Gardiner had engaged two of today’s leading Bach interpreters. In the event, the tenor Mark Padmore and baritone Dietrich Henschel were the only artists worth hearing. As the Evangelist, Padmore showed again what a stylist he is, and Henschel brought warmth and dignity to Christ. But although they had already taken their St Matthew Passion on the road in Germany, the singing of the Monteverdi Choir and playing of the English Baroque Soloists was uncharacteristically lacklustre and scrappy.

Gardiner has mellowed as a conductor, which is generally a good thing. But “mellow” is not what the St Matthew Passion needs, unless you like it to resemble a three-hour meditation without any drama. The grief-laden tread of the opening chorus came across evocatively on period instruments, yet led absolutely nowhere.

All of which meant that this was an even more than usually oppressive St Matthew Passion. As Bach’s fiery half-namesake Ludwig Feuerbach would explain a century after the composer’s death, it was not God who created Man in his image but Man who created God: Bach’s God is an especially severe Lutheran figure, and only the most exciting performances of his music can ever transcend that.

Using musicological correctness as an excuse for saving money on proper soloists, Gardiner delegated all the other solo singing to choir members, with generally feeble results that would have made the most militant atheist believe in purgatory: most of the arias dragged interminably, which in a masterpiece such as Erbarme dich amounts to vandalism. Ben Davies was focused in the small part of Peter, and the alto Claudia Huckle disclosed an interesting, rich voice worth developing, but her pitch was droopy. As for the rest, things went from bad to worse, from an inflexible soprano via a wannabe Puccini tenor to a squawky little counter-tenor. A truly passionless Passion.

Copyright 2005 Times Newspapers Ltd.

JEG / Monteverdi Choir / EBS: unhonoured in their own country!

Sw Anandgyan wrote (March 22, 2005):
MB wrote: < [snip] During the performance it was visible that the perfomers were very moved as well. Some of them closed their eyes and shaked their heads very slightly while listening to the music. And I saw many people around me who were moved to tears.
After the last tone it was totally quiet in the concert hall. No one was coughing. Absolutely NO noise from more than 2000 people! What an holy atmosphere!!!! [snip] >
Just like John and Bob, I want to thank you for having taken the time to offer us a concert review that is quite detailed. It was a joy to read.

- danke -

Eric Bergerud wrote (March 22, 2005):
[To Robin Kinross] Does look as though the English critics were in a very sour mood. If I were an editor I would NEVER (see music web) allow a reviewer who doesn't like a performer review a major work by the artist in question. (Film buffs all have nothing but praise for the late Pauline Kael. I wouldn't have dispatched her to Titanic however.) Why someone would have an axe to grind against Gardiner is a little tough to understand considering the man's outstanding production in works ranging from the 17th to 19th centuries (and a few modern ones if I recall correctly.) As a professor of mine once said, "there is no accounting for some people's taste." Maybe Hogwood has been performing less lately - he's usually the target for the critical hit squad. Anyway, seek and ye shall find. In this case, the music web reviewer finds the soloists at fault. So does the scribbler from the Times. (I certainly don't recall Gardiner drawing his soloists from the choir in the cantatas released during the 1990's - is that his standard practice?) Does seem as the Times resident expert wants a more "humanistic" approach to Easter. (Christ on the Mount of Olives? Instead of the SMP? Why not Blue Christmas or Jingle Bell Rock instead of the Messiah during Yule. Surely Mr. Allison must be joking.) That may not be the best place to start either. William Yeoman from Classic Source liked the performance but not the venue. Another critic liked the venue but not the performance. These have got to be Londoners - I'd listen to Gardiner and his band play Bach in an airport hangar if they were in town.

Uri Golomb wrote (March 23, 2005):
John Allisons (Times review of Gardiner SMP, quoted by Robin Kinross) wrote:

*********************************************
All of which meant that this was an even more than usually oppressive St Matthew Passion. As Bach’s fiery half-namesake Ludwig Feuerbach would explain a century after the composer’s death, it was not God who created Man in his image but Man who created God: Bach’s God is an especially severe Lutheran figure, and only the most exciting performances of his music can ever transcend that.
*********************************************
Is this guy serious? I can just-about-sort-of-halfway-understand why someone might make this comment about Bach's SJP, or a few of the more severe cantata movements (though even there I wouldn't share their views); how someone could describe the God image in the SMP as "an especially severe Lutheran figure" is beyond me. Speaking as a non-believer, the SMP has always struck me as one of the most humane artworks ever inspired by Christian belief; and only the most austere and rigid performance of his music can ever repress that.

Mind you, some performers do come close, in my view, and many of them are devout Lutherans... Much admiration has been expreshere recently for Richter's 1958 SMP, for example; but to my ears it does sound all too severe all to often -- at least in the choruses. There is something of a tension within that performance (at least as I experience it). Some of the arias are richly, intensely, movingly expressive -- I am speaking, first-and-foremost, about Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's arias, but not only those. And in most of these arias, Richter and his orchestra follow suit, providing ample expressive support. But when the choir takes over, a different spirit enters -- monumental, stateusque, almost militaristic at times. This is especially disturbing in two of the arias-with-chorus, "Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen" and "Ach! nun ist mein Jesus hin!". The solo singing in both cases is expressive and lyrical, but the choral singing is loud, rigid, often insensitive, at times almost brutal; sudden bursts of piano (strictly terraced) are not enough to alleviate this impression. Same applies to the concluding chorus ("Wir setzen uns").

It is quite likely that this effect is precisely what Richter sought (especially as his 1970 video performance is very similar; only the 1979 recording is somewhat mellower). Maybe he believed that these choruses represent a severe Lutheran spirit? Anyway, I must admit that my favourite modern-instrument version of the SMP is Jochum's, not Richter's. (That said, there are several versions I haven't heard yet -- including Lehamnn, Munchinger and both Rillings). Having recently heard Werner's SMP for the first time, I found it -- from initial impression -- somewhat underwhelming in a few places; but on the whole, I found his understated lyricism and quiet flexibility quite appealing. It's possible that I'll grow to enjoy this performance even more on repeated hearings.

Ironically (in light of my earlier comment), Richter's SJP (BWV 245) generally strikes as more flexible and expressive than his SMP... (I'm spekaing here about the 1958 SMP vs. the 1964 SJP).

Robin Cinross wrote (March 23, 2005):
[To Eric Bergerud] I've only recently begun to go to Gardiner's performances (another Londoner who has been blind to what's around the corner). In fact they don't get many dates in the UK. But my impression is that the pressures of the Bach year (2000) -- doing different cantatas every week -- encouraged him to use the choir for soloists. It would have been very difficult in every way to get top "name" soloists for all those performances. People in the group say that the experience of that year led to a loosening and also deepening of the way the music was performed. There are certainly wonderful and distinctive singers in the choir, and I find it very moving to see one of them come forward to sing solo.

As to the Times reviewer, who should never have been sent to that event -- just goes to show what an awful paper it is these days.

John Pike wrote (March 23, 2005):
[To Robin Kinross & Eric Bergerud] I entirely agree with all these comments by Eric and Robin

John Pike wrote (March 23, 2005):
Uri Golomb wrote: < Is this guy serious? >
Indeed. One wonders where they drag these "critics" up from.

Bob Henderson wrote (March 23, 2005):
[To Uri Golomb] Thanks to Uri Golumb for clarifying my 40 year attachment to Richter's 1958 SMP.

I grew up Lutheran and my parents were very active in the church. This was a "blood and guts" low church with deep roots in the Germanic tradition as it had come to southeastern Pennsylvania. When I was grown I never went back.

But I think I carry much of that music with me. I have never thought of Richter's Passion as severe. But I guess it is. Beautifully severe or severely beautiful. Certainly it is churchly.

Much of this might come from Richter's background.. He was a church musicial. Trained in Leipzig. Organist at the Thomaskirche. Cantor at St Marks in Munich. Few performers of the passion music today come from such a backgroung. Certainly not JEG.

Precise? Certainly. But I wonder if a part of that somewhat forced emphasis might have come from the fact that the choir was 96 strong. Militaristic? Well, they certainly disciplined! I had the good fortune to attend two Richter concerts during the 1960 when on tour: both the MBM (BWV 232). The choir held him with rapt attention. Scores not needed.

Although I am a Christian (Ironically, a Quaker. We have no music! ) I would be drawn to this music were I the most rabid athiest. The exposition of the Christian myth is not central for me. Its the art. The beauty of the art
always.

Charles Francis wrote (March 23, 2005):
Robin Kinross wrote: < As to the Times reviewer, who should never have been sent to that event -- just goes to show what an awful paper it is these days. >
Owned, since 1981 by the Oxford graduate, Rupert Murdoch, noted for his controversial contribution to the planet's cultural life. However to be gracious, the Times reviewer is hardly the first to take issue with Gardiner's Bach, as the more extreme front of the HIP movement is often critical. I'm not sure why exactly, but I assume that Gardiner is lacking political correctness in some department.

Jason Marmaras wrote (March 23, 2005):
Gardiner and SFC [Soloists-From-the-Choir]

Of Gardiner 'drawing' his soloists from the Choir, I think that is the case in his SJP, except for the Bass (C. Hauptmann) and of course Jesus (S. Varcoe) the Evangelist (A. Rolfe Johnson).

The Soloists (S: N. Argenta, R. Holton; A: Michael Chance[!]; T: N. Archer, R. Mueller) are quite pleasing. (I just noticed Chance was in the Monteverdi Choir! Wow!) The tenors though disappointed me both; my memory calls them not the masters of their voice, in these difficult arias ("Ach, mein Sinn", "Erwaege").

I haven't heard of anyone else doing this; any more information on this 'SFC ?

Jeremy Vosburgh wrote (March 23, 2005):
The Suzuki DVD recording from 2000 used Midori Suzuki (soprano), Robin Blaze (alto), and Stephen McCleod (bass and Jesus) out of the choir to sing the arias and in McCleod's case, the arias and the part of Jesus. Gerd Türk, the evangelist, also sung the tenor parts, but was not involved in the choir except for the very last chorale. I enjoyed that format as it gave the performance a feel of one soloist speaking for the rest of his/her section, instead of the soloists seeming "out-of-time" with respect to the rest of the storyline. Gerd Turk being the only one actually "separated" from the choir was able to "tell" the story. Gardiner has, in more than one case, also separated his "evangelist" from the choir (at least in some of the cantatas). In both cases it puts emphasis on the story rather than "simply" the music IMHO.

Ehud Shiloni wrote (March 24, 2005):
[To Robin Kinross] Like Robin Kinross, I attended the March 10 performance at Cadogan Hall, and here are some additional, personal, comments:

First, the negatives:

1. Cadogan Hall: I disagree with the critics' praise of the acoustics. To my ears it is quite dry, and the sound "dies" almost instantly. The weak voices of some of the soloists did not carry well. Even Catherine Fuge, whom we know and like from the cantatas recordings, was quite pale and underpowered.
2. The weak acoustics contributed to a certain lack of continuity and forward motion of the entire evening. The chamber organ sounded "small" and did not provide for a rich sound foundation.
3. The two choirs were placed quite a distance apart, to allow an access way for the boy ripienists. Gardiner himself conducted from the floor of the stage [not from a podium], and he wondered freely around, approaching each choir on its turn. I found that a bit distracting too.
4. The "weak" soloists had to walk all the way to the front of the stage, quite a long "walk", and sang facing the audience and not the conductor. The effect was that of a high-school "staging" presentation, again, distracting from the drama. [Only the tenor and one baritone, with decent voices, were spared the long walk and sang from the boys' choir podium in front of the chamber organ].
5. I partially agree with the London critics about the soloists: CMark Chambers was awful [that's the correct description]. Fuge, Wilkinson, Mobbs and Huckle - these ladys are good, but their voices were not strong enough, at least for that particular hall [I am sure they sounded much better to Martin in the German church venue]. BTW, JEG had used no less than 10[!] different soloists from the choir.

Now the good points:

6. One soloist standout: Elin Mannahan Thomas delivered a sublime Aus Liebe. She, too, has a small, innocent voice, but it did real wonders here [What is it with this aria that it never fails to draw out the best in the performer?]. The flute obligato by Rachel Beckett was superb, too.
7. Padmore and Henschel - read the critics. Delicacies.
8. The Monteverdi Choir was fantastic, despite the rather tough acoustics, and Gardiner played his choir[s] like a violin. Terrific sound, flexible and responsive, dramatic changes in dyamics oh so perfectly delivered - I'd give them straight A's for everything they did on that evening. Hearing the Monteverdi's live was alone worth the ticket price.

All in all, I'd say that this was a good performance, but not a great one.

And last word about the London critics: The Times' fellow is a clown, but if you put together the Guadian/Erican Jeal and the Classicalsource/William Yeoman you will get a pretty good description of the evening - they do deserve some credit.

BTW: Last summer I attended an SMP with Hermann Max in Jerusalem, and made some notes on Aryeh's request, but somehow never got around to finish-up and send to the List [I may still do it some day]. Max was using choir members as soloists, but the difference was that his choir [Reinische Kantorei] was made up of soloists to begin with. The average quality was much better. Also, each soloist moved from the choir to a position only half way to Max, and was looking Max in the eye while singing the aria. That eye-contact between singer and conductors had raised the voltage high, and I missed that special effect with Gardiner and his "schoolgirls" [no offence meant here...].

Thanks to Martin and to Robin for their input.

P.S. Robin - I think I was seated at row K9. Any chance we sat nearby to each other?

Adrian Horsewood wrote (March 24, 2005):
[To Ehud Shiloni] I'd probably better chip in with my observations - I attended the March 9 performance in the Cadogan Hall, as well as their rehearsal on the previous Friday (March 4)...

I'm glad that someone has the same opinion of the acoustic as I did! I had a central stalls seat for the performance, about 15 rows back, and the sound was so dry and thin. For the rehearsal, I sat in the gallery to one side of the choir, and got a much better sound. One particular 'victim' of this for me was Mark Padmore: in the rehearsal, I was completely bowled over by his performance, and I was probably only about 5 metres away; in the performance, I must have been over four times farther away, and I was much more disappointed by the sound I got from him (but not by his performance - see more below).

I wasn't very impressed with the choir soloists on the whole: only the tenor, Andrew Staples, seemed to fully 'inhabit' his performances, and I thought him the best of the lot (and very good). The others simply seemed a bit disinterested. The worst culprit, for me, was Clare Wilkinson - her 'Erbarme dich' came across as rather cold, and it seemed that she was relying too much on the general fascination and affection that people have for that aria (and I didn't think she was helped by not really having enough strength and volume in the lower register). And, yes, I thought Mark Chambers was awful, too...! In the March 9 performance, Elin Manahan Thomas sang only 'Ich will dir mein Herze schenken' - my former singing teacher is a member of the Monteverdi Choir (well, was a member until the end of the choir's tour of the SMP to Germany and Spain about two weeks ago), and she said that Gardiner had constantly been re-allocating the solos all through the tour. Her delivery of 'Ich will dir' was very clear, but the constant (almost inane) smile on her face and her constant swaying gave the whole piece a slightly sickly feel to it - so all I had to do to fix that was close my eyes...!

Padmore and Henschel were excellent. Henschel's odd facial expressions, stances and movements began to jar after about an hour, but it was one of the most alive performances of the part that I've heard (live and recorded). As for Padmore... Words can't describe the phenomenon that is Mark Padmore - while I really enjoy his recent forays into the world of Lieder, there really is no-one else like him in early music: I would pay good money to hear a performance of only the Evangelist's contribution, if he were singing it!

I have to admit that I was fascinated by Gardiner's conducting throughout - yes, it was certainly the most movement I've ever seen from a conductor in a performance, but it all seemed entirely necessary and geared towards the overall performance. But, as Ehud said, the lay-out of the performers wasn't the most helpful - it made for some awkward pauses, as well as the sight of some soloists almost breaking into a run to get back into their places before they next had to sing a choral passage!

And the choir... Oh, the choir... Absolutely amazing throughout, and surely the best choir in this country at the moment. While the individual members may not make the best soloists, the sound that Gardiner gets out of them as one unit is phenomenal. The rehearsal was very interesting, in this respect: Gardiner was getting very frustrated with the orchestra for not listening to the choirs (the SMP is, after all, a choral work!), particularly in the chorales, and eventually he decided that when they got to the chorales, he wanted the choir to sing them unaccompanied once through, and then to repeat them with the orchestra playing. And, believe me, it worked - by forcing the players to listen to how the choir (probably Gardiner's best medium, as a conductor - I've never been that impressed with the sound he gets out of his orchestras) sang the chorales, it made them keep their ears open a lot more!

My personal nomination for favourite moment of the evening: no. 60, the alto aria 'Sehet, Jesus hat die Hand' with chorus interjections - but not for the soloist, nor the chorus, nor even the orchestra. What it was was how Gardiner brought in the chorus when they sang 'Wohin?' and 'Wo?': no grand gesture, no waving of the arms, just a slight shrug of the shoulders and an opening of the hand, as if asking the question himself. Priceless.

All in all, a very good performance - but one that would have been a great performance with better non-tenor soloists (not including Dietrich Henschel!).

P.S. For what it's worth, I sat in seat K22 on the night I went... :o)

Gabriel Jackson wrote (March 24, 2005):
Charles Francis writes: "However to be gracious, the Times reviewer is hardly the first to take issue with Gardiner's Bach, as the more extreme front of the HIP movement is often critical. I'm not sure why exactly, but I assume that Gardiner is lacking political correctness in some department."
There are perfectly sound and coherent reasons for having reservations about aspects of John Eliot Gardiner's music-making. Whcha have noithing, of course, to do with 'political correctness'. (Incidentally, what's wrong with political correctness?)

Eric Bergerud wrote (March 24, 2005):
[To Robin Kinross] An interesting radio interview on BBC concerning Gardiner's new cycle commented on this very fact - that he was using a lot of young singers because of financial and scheduling pressures. Almost by definition, this will cause some problems. It should also bring some wonderful suprises.

If you look at the various cycles, using small armies of soloists is not at all unusual. Ironically I would guess Leusink has the most continuity. That's good - if you like Ruth Holton which I do. (What a lovely BWV 21 she sings.) Anyway, I am expecting wonderful things from the Gardiner cycle. The man is a splendid musician and he's working with splendid music. Pretty good combinati.

Richard Bradbury wrote (March 24, 2005):
rabid atheists?? rabid? I've only come close to rabid when i was bitten by a dog in Poland about 15 years ago (I think)! Sitting listening to SJP in Exeter Cathedral last week - the tenor strained a lot in that large space but the choir were alive and reached some really dramatic moments - I found myself thinking that the people there were several different groups: those listening to the text, and they divided into two groups of those easy with german and those who had to do simultaneous translation from the eccentric version in the programme (and maybe thereby losing something); those listening to the texts and the music as a dialectic between differnet sorts of sign (in a Saussurean sense); and those listening to the music of the music and the voices. This atheist, barely foaming at all, listened to the music and thought about architecture and the relationship between sound and stone and came as close as perhaps I get to a spiritual experience (which may be JSB's ability to invite me outside the babble of the day) and, being an ex-catholic, paid some attention to the texts and found myself listening to the drama as well.

Uri Golomb wrote (March 24, 2005):
Ehud Shiloni wrote: < Last summer I attended an SMP with Hermann Max in Jerusalem, and made some notes on Aryeh's request, but somehow never got around to finish-up and send to the List [I may still do it some day]. Max was using choir members as soloists, but the difference was that his choir [Reinische Kantorei] was made up of soloists to begin with. The average quality was much better. >
MY COMMENT:

A good point. The idea of using soloist from the choir is supposedly based on Bach's employment of the same; but the concept in Bach's time, as I understand it, was to have a core group of soloists (concertists), to which extra singers (ripienists) were added -- not to have a choir and select soloists from it. Suzuki's concept is, in that respect, somewhat more similar to Bach. He doesn't necessarily draw his soloists FROM the choir. Instead, he asks his soloists -- some of whom are NOT regular members of the Bach Collegium Japan -- to JOIN the choir. But Max's concept is probably closest of all to 18th-century practices as I understand them: he selects singers for his choir with the express intention of employing them as soloists later, and therefore makes a point of choosing people whom he considers to be good soloists.

I would expect that Gardiner would apply similar standards in choosing singers for his own choir; but perhaps, in this case, his choices did not entirely convince all audience members... I have no opinion myself, as I didn't attend this performance.

Robin Kinross wrote (March 24, 2005):
Ehud Shiloni wrote: < P.S. Robin - I think I was seated at row K9. Any chance we sat nearby to each other? >
I was very near the stage, second row from the front. Maybe this explains why I could hear everything well enough, including the more fragile singing, though had strange sight-lines. In the first half we sat at the extreme right of that row, and got an overdose of some clumping harpsichord. Then moved to near the centre of the row for the second half (some seats unclaimed by corporate guests?) and it was pretty good. Nice views of energetic JEG too.

John Pike wrote (March 24, 2005):
[To Uri Golomb] Very interesting. Gardiner seems to adopt these principles for his baroque orchestra....the English Baroque SOLOISTS, and many members of that group are certainly established soloists. The costs of adopting that principle for his choir as well could be prohibitive and he is probably still recovering from the financial disaster that was the Cantata pilgrimage. It was only after making sufficient financial recovery that he was able to consider releasing all the cantatas on his own label. He has been quite open about that in interviews.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (March 24, 2005):
John Pike wrote: "Very interesting. Gardiner seems to adopt these principles for his baroque orchestra....the English Baroque SOLOISTS, and many members of that group are certainly established soloists. The costs of adopting that principle for his choir as well could be prohibitive and he is probably still recovering from the financial disaster that was the Cantata pilgrimage."
It is worth acknowledging that not only are the members of the Monteverdi Choir very experienced freelance professional choral singers but many are small-consort singers and soloists as well. I didn't hear the performance in question so can't commnt of course - and there does seem to be a lot of agreement about disappointing solo singing - but taking soloists from the choir is a very different proposition with the Monteverdi Choir than from an amateur group, however able that it might be as a choir. I'd be interested to know who exactly was in the choir on this occasion, if anyone has that information and has the energy to post it. Certainly several singers I know who sing regularly with the Monteverdi Choir also have active solo careers.

Ehud Shiloni wrote (March 24, 2005):
[To Gabriel Jackson] Gabriel - here are the choir singers [copying from the program]:

Sopranos:

Grace Davidson
Donna Deam
Suzanne Flowers
Katherine Fuge - solo movements 12/13, 27a[duet], 67
Kirsty Hopkins
Elin Manahan Thomas - 48/49
Charlotte Mobbs - 8
Belinda Yates

Altos:

Mark Chambers - 51/52
Claudia Huckle - 30, 39
Tim travers-Brown
William Towers
Richard Wyn Roberts
Clare Wilkinson - 5/6, 27a[duet], 59/60, 67

Tenors:

Jeremy Budd
Andrew Busher
Andrew Staples - 19/20, 34/35
Paul Tindall
William Unwin
Simon Wall

Basses:

Matthew Brook - 22/23, 64/67
Julian Clarkson - 42
Ben Davies
Robert Davies
Samuel Evans
Thomas Guthrie - 56/57

[Padmore and Henschel sang in 67 as well]

MB wrote (March 24, 2005):
[To Gabriel Jackson] After a few days I just checked my account and I can´t believe how many responses I received for my review!!!!! Thank you for you kind comments!!

It´s a shame that some of you did not enjoy the performance in London as I enjoyed the perfomances in Königslutter and especially in Frankfurt were everything looked and sounded liked just perfect.

I can´t say a single negative word about the soloists there. Sure, without Padmore, Fuge and Henschel there were no "big names" but J.Clarkson, E.M.Thomas, T. Guthrie were already soloists on the BCP and not just Choirmembers. And as far as I know some "big names" started as members of the Monteverdi Choir such as Joanne Lunn, Katherine Fuge, Michael Chance, William Towers. Now they are in great demand by other ensembles like Gabrieli Consort (Lunn / Fuge), The sixteen (Towers) and others.

I´m sure that Clare Wilkinson (who already accompanied Gardiner on the B-minor-mass tour last year) will follow them and Elin Manahan Thomas also. Again, in Frankfurt the soloists as well as the choir(s) and the orchestra were brilliant.

That´s also what the press reportet. I saw some articles (unfortunately only in german available) about both german concerts. All in all they wrote that the performances were at the highest standards and were full of superlatives.

However, perhaps you will have time to give Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir/EBS an second chance in the Thomaskirche in Leipzig on 04.May.05...

Dear Gabriel, I have the full cast of the german concerts and will mail it in the next days. I´m also very interested in the question of what the singers of the MCO are doing when they are not on tour with Gardiner. Are they teachers? Are all of them studied professionals?

A tip for the people (like me) who like the beautiful voice of Elin Manahan Thomas: She is also a soloist on Gardiners "Santiago a capella"-CD which was released during the Monteverdi Choirs Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in 2004. It contains absolutely beautiful a capella choir music.

(At this point I should add that I´m not working for Monteverdi Ltd. ;-).....unfortunately)

Wish you a good Easter weekend!

P.S. Tomorrow afternoon at 8 p.m. (local time, Germany) a recording of the SJP will be broadcasted on NDR Kultur. You can listen it over the web -> www.ndrkultur.de -> NDR Kultur live. The concert was recorded in Königslutter 2003. Soloists: Mark Padmore (Evangelist),Hanno Müller-Brachmann (Christus), Peter Harvey (Pilatus), Bernarda Fink, Joanne Lunn, Katherine Fuge, Monteverdi Choir, EBS, Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Enjoy it! Best wishes!

MB wrote (March 24, 2005):
[To Gabriel Jackson] As I see, I was too slow...;-)

Gabriel Jackson wrote (March 24, 2005):
[To Ehud Shiloni] Many thanks for this, Ehud. Very interesting! I don't know (or even know of) all these singers, by any means but looking down the list Donna Deam, Suzanne Flowers, Belinda Yates and Julian Clarkson are all highly experienced singers in various professional groups, Clare Wilkinson has an active solo career and Richard Wyn Roberts and Matthew Brook are very experienced consort and solo singers. So, whatever failings in any of the soloists were felt by some listeners I wouldn't attribute those failings to the fact that they were 'drawn from the choir'.


Gardiner performances of SMP

Robin Kinross wrote (May 8, 2005):
Thanks to a friend of a friend in Leipzig, who had bought a returned ticket (they had sold out within hours of release), and Ryanair, I got to hear the Monteverdi Choir and EBS doing the SMP in the Thomaskirche last Wednesday (4 May). The event seemed to clear up a lot of what was unsatisfactory in the London performance.

The band and choir were in the organ gallery. So, much of the audience couldn't see them -- had their backs to them, as well as having the "fence" of the gallery putting the players out of sight. The evangelist (not Padmore but Christoph Genz) and Jesus (Henschel again) stood at the fence and sang out into the church. The soloists came to the fence to sing.

In the first half I sat just by the pulpit, near the middle of the nave, and could hear everything clearly. I had heard part of one of the rehearsals, sitting even further from the gallery, and found especially the louder soloists tough to listen too -- very boomy and harsh sound. Though Katherine Fuge's soprano aria was completely clear and beautiful, even in the near-empty church. It seems that one just needs human bodies there for the acoustic to become good.

In the second half, friends in the group smuggled me into a seat in the organ gallery. I felt as if I was almost part of the band. In fact I lost some of the sense of "reception" and of engagement that I had felt when with the audience. Still, it was a wonderful place to be.

The players said that they felt this was their best performance of the piece in this year's run of it. Being mostly out of view, they (or at least the few I spoke with) felt freer, could just get on with it. They were conscious of the special nature of the place, and that must have lifted the event. The audience was very quiet throughout, then at the end, after a long pause (much longer than is normal in the UK), there was huge and sustained applause.

I missed Mark Padmore, of course. Genz seemed to be growing into the role, but he came over as too singery, and not narrational enough. The countertenor this time (William Towers) was fine -- electric. I enjoyed especially Matthew Brook's "Mache dich". In general, the "soloists from the choir" worked more obviously better than in the London concert hall. Having them up in the gallery, it felt natural to do the piece that way.

Doug Cowling wrote (May 8, 2005):
Robin Kinross wrote: < The band and choir were in the organ gallery. So, much of the audience couldn't see them -- had their backs to them, as well as having the "fence" of the gallery putting the players out of sight. The evangelist (not Padmore but Christoph Genz) and Jesus (Henschel again) stood at the fence and sang out into the church. The soloists came to the fence to sing.
In the first half I sat just by the pulpit, near the middle of the nave, and could hear everything clearly. I had heard part of one of the rehearsals, sitting even further from the gallery, and found especially the louder soloists tough to listen too -- very boomy and harsh sound. >
As has been pointed out before, modern performances in the St. Thomas Church really can't recreate the acoustical environment of Bach's time. There have been significant architectural changes, most significantly the removal of the side galleries which would have reduced the reverberance of the gothic church. Do any of the Bach's churches in Leipzig retain their 18th century form?

Doug Cowling wrote (May 8, 2005):
Robin Kinross wrote: < Thanks to a friend of a friend in Leipzig, who had bought a returned ticket (they had sold out within hours of release), and Ryanair, I got to hear the Monteverdi Choir and EBS doing the SMP in the Thomaskirche last Wednesday (4 May). The event seemed to clear up a lot of what was unsatisfactory in the London performance. >
Article in today's NY Times on the Gardiner tour and CD series.

I noticed that Lorraine Hunt Lieberson will be performing Peter Sellars' "Bach Cantatas" on August 7, 9 & 11 as part of the Mostly Mozart festival in NYC.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 8, 2005):
Doug Cowling wrote: >>As has been pointed out before, modern performances in the St. Thomas Church really can't recreate the acoustical environment of Bach's time. There have been significant architectural changes, most significantly the removal of the side galleries which would have reduced the reverberance of the gothic church.<<
How true! Arnold Schering, who did a thorough investigation and hypothetical reconstruction of the interior conditions within St. Thomas Church during Bach's tenure there, concluded that there was a vast contrast in the acoustical and performance conditions between the St. Thomas and St. Nicholas Churches. In the St. Nicholas Church some members of the congregation seated in the galleries on either side of the nave could actually see the performers located on the west end balcony allowing for a closer, more direct connection with the audience/congregation. Schering writes (in this instance, more specifically in reference to the placement of the main organs played in either church - these instruments, of course, formed an integral part of the balcony from which figural music was performed): "Die damit geschaffene engere Verbindung mit der Hörerschaft, die zudem von den Emporen aus den Spieler deutlich beobachten konnte, mochte oft genug zu konzertierendem Spiele reizen." Arnold Schering, p. 151 of "Johann Sebastian Bachs Leipziger Kirchenmusik" [Leipzig, 1936] ["The closer connection created with the congregation/audience, which could observe from its own balconies the organist {and all the other musicians/singers at the same time} performing, may often enough have stimulated {Bach or another player} to play in concertante fashion" -- Schering then
refers to cantatas with obbligato organ, most of which were composed for St. Nicholas Church.]

In St. Thomas Church, as reconstructed by Schering, the organ, as part of the rather small choir loft of which it formed a part, was was quite high and remote from where the congregation sat. All music emanating from there sounded as if from a great distance "wie von fern:", p. 151 "Ihr [die Nicholai Orgel] Ton ging nicht über die Köpfe der Gemeinde hinweg wie in S. Thomae, sondern drang unmittelbar aus nächster Nähe auf sie hernieder." ["The sound of the organ at St. Nicholas Church did not pass over the heads of the congregation as in St. Thomas Church, but rather came at the congregation directly with great power and at close proximity."] From this latter statement we can infer (since the figural music was generally performed from these specific organ balconies in either church) that at least part of the St. Nicholas congregation could see and hear the cantatas, passions, oratorios, etc. performed there, while the St. Thomas congregation could not observe the performers and heard the music 'as if from a great distance.' These are two very different acoustical environments!.

Schering, on. p. 161, mentions that in the St. Nicholas Church, the (solo?) singers stood at the edge of their balcony (and could then be easily seen by the audience, if we take the above description account: "die Sänger standen vorn an der Brüstung neben dem Rückpositiv..." ['standen' and 'die Sänger' were reversed here by me] ["the singers stood at the balustrade next {and on either side} to the 'Rückpositiv' section of the organ."] At St. Thomas Church, the musicians and singers were placed behind the 'Rückpositiv' and not on either side as was the case at St. Nicholas Church. Even for the SMP, Schering could not envision much, if any, spatial separation between the 2 choirs/instruments/soloists. As far as Schering was concerned, the congregation did not see the musicians nor were they able to perceive much, if any, stereophonic separation between the choirs since they were standing relatively close together at St. Thomas Church. Unfortunately, as Schering puts it on p. 165: "Dokumente, die in zweifelsfreier Weise über die Art und Weise unterrichteten, wie Seb. Bach seine Passionen, insbesondere die größte unter ihnen, die nach Matthäus, aufgeführt hat, gibt es nicht." ["documents, which give us unequivocal proof or inform us with absolute certainty about the manner in which Bach performed his Passions, and more specifically the greatest of these, the SMP."]

>>Do any of the Bach's churches in Leipzig retain their 18th century form?<
Certainly not the two most important ones which are discussed in great detail by Schering as indicated above.

Charles Francis wrote (May 8, 2005):
Robin Kinross wrote: < The band and choir were in the organ gallery. So, much of the audience couldn't see them -- had their backs to them, as well as having the "fence" of the gallery putting the players out of sight. The evangelist(not Padmore but Christoph Genz) and Jesus (Henschel again) stood at the fence and sang out into the church. The soloists came to the fence to sing. >
I once attended a boy-choir performance of some Bach cantatas in Graz cathedral, where the musicians were performing from the Organ Gallery at the back (Harnoncourt was directing as I recall). It was not a memorable concert, although I do remember the disconcerting acoustics.

Doug Cowling wrote (May 8, 2005):
Doug Cowling wrote: >> As has been pointed out before, modern performances in the St. Thomas Church really can't recreate the acoustical environment of Bach's time. There have been significant architectural changes, most significantly the removal of the side galleries which would have reduced the reverberance of the gothic church.<<
Thomas Braatz wrote: < How true! Arnold Schering, who did a thorough investigation and hypothetical reconstruction of the interior conditions within St. Thomas Church during Bach's tenure there, concluded that there was a vast contrast in the acoustical and performance conditions between the St. Thomas and St. Nicholas Churches.>
>> Do any of the Bach's churches in Leipzig retain their 18th century form?<<
< Certainly not the two most important ones which are discussed in great detail by Schering as indicated above. >
Contemporary audiences are so used to the direct visual communication of the modern concert hall with conductor and artists "performing" visually as well as musically that they don't like west gallery performances when they go to concerts. 18th century century musicians performed unseen in galleries precisely because it was felt that the physicality of performance was considered inappropriate to the religious purpose of the music.

It is no accident that Wagner's "Parsifal", the first opera to be written for the Bayreuth Theatre, exploits not only the invisible orchestra in the famous covered pit, but has antiphonal choirs placed unseen backstage and high above in the flies. When pressed to recreate religiosity, Wagner merely reproduced what was still familiar in both Lutheran and Catholic liturgies.

And yet there is no doubt 18th century audiences liked to see their performers. There is a papal decree forbidding Roman worshippers from turning their chairs at Vespers to face the gallery at the back and then silently waving their handkerchiefs to applaud soloists!

From an acoustic point of view, many Catholic choirs moved from their west galleries after Vatican II to the front so that they could be seen to be part of the worshipping assembly. Alas, they found that the sound was better projected from a gallery raised above the congregation's heads than at the front. The placement of choirs and orchestras at the front in chancels and sanctuaries bedevils balance and ensemble in modern concerts.

Eric Bergerud wrote (May 9, 2005):
[To Charles Francis] Obviously I envy Robin the experience of hearing Gardiner's fine ensemble at the Thomaskirche. But I also envy Charles. The experience briefly described sounds rather closer to what Bach's audience would have heard than anything Gardiner could do regardless of acoustics. Bach composed for boys and young men. The Monteverdi Choir, as magnificent as it is, must sound profoundly different. Just once in my life I'd like to hear a boys choir under a great conductor sing Bach cantatas from a loft in the rear. Just once. What a mind game that would be.

As for myself I missed a recent performance of the American Bach Soloists doing the Magnificat down the street because of an abscessed tooth that was removed the next morning. I bet people were made of sterner stuff in the 18th century.


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]

John Eliot Gardiner: Short Biography | Monteverdi Choir | English Baroque Soloists
Recordings:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Newsletters
Cantatas:
Cantatas BWV 106, 118b, 198 | Cantatas BWV 140, 147 | Cantatas BWV 11, 37, 43, 128 | Cantatas BWV 6, 66 | Cantatas BWV 72, 73, 111, 156 | Cantatas BWV 82, 83, 125, 200
Bach Cantata Pilgrimage:
BCP - Vols 1&8 | BCP - Vol. 14 | BCP - Vol. 24 | Bach Cantata Pilgrimage DVD | DVD John Eliot Gardiner in Rehearsal
Other Vocal Works:
BWV 232 - Gardiner | BWV 244 - Gardiner | BWV 245 - Gardiner | BWV 248 - Gardiner | BWV 1127 - Gardiner
Table of recordings by BWV Number

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: ýFebruary 3, 2006 ý10:19:16