Matthäus-Passion BWV 244
General Discussions - Part 1
Preferred versions of the St. Matthew Passion
Stephen Jacobs wrote (April 1, 1994):
I have been enjoying Otto Klemperer's recording of the St. Matthew Passion with remarkable singers including Ludwig, Schwartzkopf, Fischer-Dieskau, Berry and Gedda, and the Philharmonia.
I can't imagine a more fulfilling musical experience - probably until I hear the recording of the work I hope you will recommend.
Please suggest alternative performances of the St. Matthew Passion.
Also, would you recommend passions by other composers.
Andreas Weimann wrote (April 2, 1994):
[To Stephen Jacobs] There is a "very romantic" interpretation of this passion conducted by Willim Mengelberg and the Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam from 1939. This recording meets its counterpart in the interpretation by the conductor Martin Neumann and Cologne's Musica antiqua from 1985.
James Liu wrote (April 3, 1994):
[To Stephen Jacobs] The Klemperer is a great recording, though contemporary ears might want slightly fleeter tempi. The general first pick for the St. Matthew is John Eliot Gardiner's recording with the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists on original instruments for 3 DG Archiv CD's. I've not heard it myself, but before a recent Boston performance of the St. Matthew, all the record stores sold out of this recording.
Karl Richter's account on modern instruments with his Munich Bach Orchestra has just been reissued by DG Archiv. While the performance almost certainly wouldn't have the monolithic monumentality of Klemperer or the fleet drama of Gardiner, it's also been widely praised, and may be worth looking into.
I'd also suggest listening to Bach's St. John Passion. It was written first, and has a much more thrilling sense of immediate drama. The choral part is more prominent, and exceedingly well written, though it lacks the philosophic subtlety or emotional impact of the St. Matthew. Gardiner again is the common first recommendation; I own the recording, and am not entirely satisfied with it. I've not heard an alternative that I am satisfied with, though.
Richard Wang wrote (April 4, 1994):
< James Liu wrote: The Klemperer is a great recording, though contemporary ears might want slightly fleeter tempi. The general first pick for the St. Matthew is John Eliot Gardiner's recording with the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists on original instruments for 3 DG Archiv CD's. I've not heard it myself, but before a recent Boston performance of the St. Matthew, all the record stores sold out of this recording. >
Good recording, and well worth the $40 or so it costs. But the recent performance you mention was disappointing--too slow for my taste, and not very impassioned.
< I'd also suggest listening to Bach's St. John Passion. It was written first, and has a much more thrilling sense of immediate drama. The choral part is more prominent, and exceedingly well written, though it lacks the philosophic subtlety or emotional impact of the St. Matthew. Gardiner again is the common first recommendation; I own the recording, and am not entirely satisfied with it. I've not heard an alternative that I am satisfied with, though. >
There's a period recording by Bruggen on Philips. Excellent vocalists--I preferred them to Gardiner's. But the playing of the orchestra was really not up to par, and the recording sounds unbalanced during many of the fast choral passages.
Keith (Palace FC) wrote (April 6, 1994):
< Richard Wang writes: ...about, guess what, preferred versions of MattPash. I won't repeat the text since the header makes it somewhat obvious. >
Notwithstanding current performance fashions, and the fact that some will accuse me of heresy and others of being a throwback to the dark ages, I've always loved the old(ish) Karl Richter recording with a great cast of soloists and the Munich Bach Orchestra.
An unashamedly romantic interpretation--perhaps. Maybe I love it because it was because it was my first Passion recording. But I think it's because, simply, the immense spirituality of the reading quite literally pours forth from every groove. This is a labour of devotion of the highest order, and that, given the subject, is enough for me.
James Liu wrote (April 9, 1994):
[To Keith] One could say the same of the interminably slow, yet overpoweringly inspired recording by Otto Klemperer for EMI. This also features as fine an Evangelist (Peter Pears) and Jesus (Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau) as one could hope for. Also quite an overwhelming testament of faith, considering that Klemp was a converted Jew.
Reuben Settergren wrote (April 10, 1994):
I don't know how helpful we're being, as there seems to be no consensus, but I nominate the recording which I own, with which I am eminently satisfied (and which is the only version I've heard): Solti, Chicago-Lite, Te Kanawa, Von Otter, Rolfe Johnson (Core members of Two-last-names anonymous), et al.
Impeccable choral and orchestral work; best of both (authentic vs. modern) worlds orchestra: the delicacy of the old, and the accuracy of the new, and amazingly tender solo singing.
(And incidentally, a great cast photo of the entire gang, with Solti looking like a lech with his arms around Von Otter and a very uncomfortable-looking Te Kanawa!)
Bernard S. Greenberg wrote (April 3, 1994):
[To Andreas Weimann] I find Mengelberg's so "Romantic" as to be quirky, and unlistenable. The Matthaeus-Passion is quite "romantic" without this much additional help. I suppose my favorite -Matthaeus- remains that with which I grew up, Mogens Wöldike and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra (c. 1960?), (Hans Braun, Walter Berry, Teresa Stitch-Randall, Hilde Rössl-Majdan, Uno Ebrelius, et al), which was available on Vanguard for many years. Of those readily available today, Karl Richter/Münchner Bach-Chor (Mathis/Baker/Schreier/D F-D etc.) comes closest to preserving the romantic sweep of the work without degenerating into bathos, or going the other way, the Spartan "Early Music" dogmatism of Schreier's own performance.
If performed properly, you should weep.
St Matthew PassionJaime Jean wrote (February 23, 1999):
I will follow my yearly tradition of springing for some new Bach CD's as a birthday present for myself - and the early Easter suggests trying a = new St. Matthew Passion, preferably HIP. I already have Herreweghe's = 1985 recording, as well as Karl Münchinger. Any suggestions?
Aya Itoy wrote (February 25, 1999):
Joining the list for the first time from Tokyo ---
I recently went down with the mumps (I'm in my 30's) and had the unexpected pleasure of listening to several St Matthew Passions. I warned off my family and friends from my bed and was stuck exclusively with (quite happily) Johann Sebastian for three days.
I find the Leonhardt (1989) really inspired - very moving. It is great. Here I would like to say a word about Hermann Max and Rheinische Kantorei from Capriccio (1996). It's very fast (2-CDs only) and while some might object to it, sounds okay to me. AND, it has two outstanding casts: Christoph Prégardien and Klaus Mertens as Evangelist and Jesus. Truly magnificent. Orchestra playing is refined - maybe too much so, still I think it's worth a try. It is also inexensive, about one third of what I paid for another (less satisfactory) St Matt. It is HIP. Both Amazon and Tower carry it. I'd be very happy if it was my birthday present.
Okay Ehud - I did it!
Matthäus Passion recommendationsMarti Llaurado Magrinya wrote (March 27, 2000):
My name is Martin, and although I follow the group postings regularly (I find them a great source of information), in the past I have only posted a few messages. Due to the recent spat of new recordings of the St Matthew passion, I would like some information about the Brüggen, Herreweghe (2nd recording), and Suzuki recordings (I already have the Gardiner one). I would like to know which one has the clearer and more imaginative instrumental music (I like the Suzuki's St John and Bruggen's Mass for that). And which one sings the parts (chorales, recitatives, evangelist) giving the best inflection (I like Brüggen's St John for that. They seems to be very attentive to the words meaning in the chorales when singing them, without sounding mannered at all in my opinion. Most other versions sing them uniformly). I have heard some Herreweghe cantatas. Some are very good, but in others I find the instrumental parts a bit too recessed (difficult to follow each part since they are almost inaudible). Does that happen in the Matthäus Passion (2nd recording)?. Do they sing the chorales uniformly or do they try to inflect the meaning of the words?.Thank you very
NB. Does anybody know how to search past postings of the group?. I have tried dejanews, but I haven't found anything about Bruggen's Matthäus Passion, and I seem to recall there were some postings in the group when the recording appeared.
Donald Staz wrote (March 27, 2000):
I like the Herreweghe 1 and 2 more than any other versions; Herreweghe has the pulse of this work, and the singers on the recent version are generally excellent. Gardiner is a little too theatrical - his approach works better in the Christmas Oratorio. Suzuki is very good, but his female soloists are of lower quality. I'd like to have the Brüggen but haven't noticed its availability in the U.S.
Matthew Westphal wrote (March 27, 2000):
< Donald Satz wrote: I'd like to have the Bruggen but haven't noticed its availability in the U.S. >
The Brüggen isn't available in the US. However, one good thing about the Internet is that when CD titles aren't available in the US, ordering them from abroad is very easy.
Here's a link to its listing at Amazon's German site:
It's listed at the UK site as well, but there it's "on order", expected to ship in 1-2 weeks (i.e., you can't count on it).
A UK site that does have it available (at a much better price) is Crotchet:
I do recommend the Brüggen -- it's one of my two favorites (so far); the other is Max on Capriccio (which is a semi-budget label) - #60046
Ryan Michero wrote (March 27, 2000):
< Marti Llaurado Magrinya wrote: Due to the recent spat of new recordings of the St Matthew passion, I would like some information about the Brüggen, Herreweghe (2nd recording), and Suzuki recordings (I already have the Gardiner one). I would like to know which one has the clearer and more imaginative instrumental music (I like the Suzuki's St John and Bruggen's Mass for that). >
I haven't heard the Brüggen version, but my vote for the best instrumental playing goes to Suzuki over Herreweghe II. Don't get me wrong--Herreweghe's instrumentalists are excellent, but I can hear the nuances of Suzuki's players a little better. Also, Ryo Terakado gives the most moving performance of the violin part of "Erbarme dich" I have heard.
< And which one sings the parts (chorales, recitatives, evangelist) giving the best inflection (I like Brüggen's St John for that. They seems to be very attentive to the words meaning in the chorales when singing them, without sounding mannered at all in my opinion. Most other versions sing them uniformly). >
Ian Bostridge for Herreweghe (II) and Gerd Türk for Suzuki are both really outstanding evangelists, and you can't go wrong with either. For the choruses, I give Herreweghe's Collegium Vocale Gent the edge over the Bach Collegium Japan chorus for more dramatic and colorful singing. As for the other vocal soloists, I prefer Suzuki's team over Herreweghe's. Robin Blaze and Peter Kooy are absolutely wonderful, and Nancy Argenta, Makoto Sakurada, and Chiyuki Urano are fine if not quite up to their level. For Herreweghe (II), I love the singing of Andreas Scholl and Werner Güra, but Sibylla Rubens, Dietrich Henschel, and Franz-Josef Selig sound out of place in this repertoire. I have heard Brüggen's soloists are uneven, but I believe he has the great Nico van der Meel as evangelist--a definite plus.
< I have heard some Herreweghe cantatas. Some are very good, but in others I find the instrumental parts a bit too recessed (difficult to follow each part since they are almost inaudible). Does that happen in the Matthäus Passion (2nd recording)?. >
It's not as bad as on some of Herreweghe's recordings, but I would prefer it a bit clearer. It drives me crazy on some of Herreweghe's recordings that great soloists like Marcel Ponseele are playing but you can barely hear them through the overly rich acoustic.
< Do they sing the chorales uniformly or do they try to inflect the meaning of the words?. >
I would've liked a little less uniformity in both recordings, but Herreweghe's choir is a bit more satisfying.
< 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 Matthäus 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 Matthäus 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.
Piotr Stanislawski wrote (March 27, 2000):
< Marti wrote: (...) Due to the recent spat of new recordings of the St Matthew passion, I would like some information about the Brüggen, Herreweghe (2nd recording), and Suzuki recordings (I already have the Gardiner one). I would like to know which one has the clearer and more imaginative instrumental music... (...) >
My vote is for Herreweghe second recordings, his instrumental part and choir is in my view the best in HIP recordings of SMP I have heard and the best recorded performance - the instruments are wonderfuly recorded; it's more alive then others and - as Don said - Herreweghe has the pulse of this work, in Bruggen's and Susuki's ones I was not able to keep my full concentration - may be they are too slowly to my taste. Some arias are better sung in Suzuki's recording, some in Herreweghe's one ( I can't stand either Rubens' and Argenta singing) but when it comes to instrumentation I would choice Herreweghe's recording.
Philip Peters wrote (March 27, 2000):
<< Marti 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 Matthäus 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 Brügen Matthäus 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. >
It was discussed at r.m.c.r. where it got a pretty bad press..... You can find it at Dejanews.
Sam Frederick wrote (March 27, 2000):
< Matthew Westphal wrote: I do recommend the Bruggen -- it's one of my two favorites (so far); the other is Max on Capriccio (which is a semi-budget label) - #60046 >
Could you please tell us more abou the Brüggen. I too would be satisfied with either Suzuki or Herreweghe (2nd vs) except for the sopranos. Doesn't Maria Kristina Kiehr sing on Brüggen's recording? Who sings alto? How are these soloists?
And please, tell us about the Max recording on Capriccio. Still available?
Sybrand Bakker wrote (March 27, 2000):
(To Sam Frederick) Distribution
Nico van der Meel tenor, evangelist
Kristinn Sigmundsson bass, Jesus
Maria Christina Kiehr, Soprano I
Mona Julsrud, Soprano II
Claudia Schubert, contralto I
Wilke te Brummelstroete, contralto II
Ian Bostridge Tenor I
Toby Spence Tenor II
Peter Kooy Bass I
Harry van der Kamp Bass II
Netherlands Chamber Choir
Boys' choir of St bavo cathedral Haarlem
Recorded live in april 1996 at Vredenburg, Utrecht
John Grant wrote (March 27, 2000):
Where does my Corboz version sit in the compendium? Lower on the list? Or higher up? The Passion is my favourite piece music, so I'd like to have the best there is.
Matthew Westphal wrote (March 28, 2000):
(To Philip Peters) At different times the Brüggen SMhas 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 crowded field 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 ofprint 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.
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.
Favourite St. Matthew RecordingsRyan Michero wrote (April 18, 2000):
Since it is a few days before Good Friday, I want to propose a discussion of our favourite recordings of the St. Matthew Passion. I recently attended a live performance of the St. Matthew (James Richman and the Dallas Bach Society) and I have been listening to my own favourite recordings, so the topic is pretty fresh in my mind. I'm going to write some things about one or two versions of the St. Matthew on Friday, but I still have a couple more versions I want to hear/re-hear before I do anything. So, I invite anyone who wants to participate to pick out one or two favourites and write a short review explaining why you love them. There are two new high-profile recordings on the market (by Suzuki and Herreweghe) this year--have these new ones supplanted anyone's previous favourites? Or are the established recordings still preferred even in the face of this competition? Do you have a favourite that doesn't get much attention but you think is special? Let us know!
Please, no curt dismissals of others' favourite recordings (i.e., "this version is worthless because I don't like such-and-such's voice"). I'm hoping to discuss our favourite recordings and not ones we feel are mostly inadequate.
St Matthew Passion (was: Do we have an archive?)Archimedes (Santu de Silva) wrote:
What do most of us think about:
Herrewege SMP 1
Herrewege SMP 2
?? I thought I remembered that the top vote-getters were Suzuki and Herrewege 2.
BTW, I own the Gardiner, and my opinion is that Gardiner makes the soloists rush through the Arias so that he can get to the choruses. But I really enjoy Cornelius Hauptmann's arias. I wish he were allowed to take his time with them, e.g. "Mache dich mein Herze rein"--way too hurried. (Okay, it's sentimental, but hey, if you don't like sentimental, stay away from the SMP Mr. Gardiner.)
Peter Bright wrote (April 27, 2000):
Well, I am absolutely sure that most of the group do not agree with me but I still go for Klemperer's SMP over all others. Very far from the more "authentic" versions mentioned (I have the Suzuki and Gardiner versions and have heard the second Herreweghe) but I find none of these as profoundly moving. Certainly it has its problems (particularly in some sections where it is so slow it practically falls apart), but I have yet to hear a more beautiful "Ebarme dich, mein Gott" or a "Mache dich, mein Herze, rein" as perfect as this one. The line-up is exceptional (Peter Pears, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Christa Ludwig, Nicolai Gedda, Walter Berry) and they excel themselves throughout. As I think I've said before, the recording may say more about Klemperer and his time than it does about Bach but I still haven't found a more recent, authentic and historically informed performance as compelling.
Of the Suzuki and Gardiner versions I probably prefer the former - it seems somehow more controlled and the emotional intensity less "forced". However, I am disappointed with the performances on both discs of the magnificent arias already mentioned. Some listeners will like the Suzuki verisons, I think, because they lack what can be seen as an unnecessary emotional intensity (romantic slant?) of the less "informed versions". I also agree that Gardiner, wonderful in the choruses, takes too fast an approach in the arias.
Incidentally, in general, I much prefer Bach's music played on period instruments (I'm a great fan of Suzuki, Junghänel, Christopher Hogwood, Parrot, etc.) - it's just the SMP in particular that somehow lacks something important in all the recent versions I have heard (although I do still greatly enjoy them, particularly the Suzuki, very much).
Puny" versus "titanic"Galina Kolomietz wrote (May 19, 2000):
This is a short review that appeared in the Washington Post a few days ago. This is an unremarkable review of what appears to have been an unremarkable performance of Bach's SMP (I didn't go), but it is interesting (amusing?) b/c of the reviewer's nonchalant dismissal of the performing practice that, as the reviewer admits, may have been Bach's own (emphasis added):
"Johann Sebastian Bach was positively emphatic about his need for large musical forces, and he said as much in a 1730 memorandum to his penny-pinching employers on the Leipzig town council. 'A well-appointed church music,' he wrote, 'requires a mass of at least 16 singers and 18 or more instrumentalists.' Thomas Beveridge, whose New Dominion Chorale performed Bach's St Matthew Passion Sunday at Fairfax High School, must have read the composer's letter. While many in today's period-instrument movement insist on looking through the wrong end of the musical telescope to approximate and duplicate Bach's own puny forces, Beveridge and his 185-plus-member double chorus and double orchestra delivered a performance that consistently emphasised the music's titanic proportions. In his broad and spacious reading, Beveridge led his players in a throbbing rendition that clearly related a story of pain, suffering and sorrow. The double chorus's opening 'Come, ye daughters, share my anguish' was awash in contrapunctal pity, and its concluding 'In deepest grief, here sit we weeping' seemed a mournful lullaby. Throughout the concert, the Langley High School Women's Select Treble Choir - which assisted in the performance - created a halo of shimmering sounds. Occasionally, New Dominion's powerfuperformance sacrificed clarity for volume. Bach's exhilarating bass lines were often lost in the tonal fray, and vocal parts seemed overly blended. And Beveridge's English translation of the text, which was down-to-earth and accessible, lacked a sense of mystical urgency. The result was a refreshing performance that nevertheless fell short of revelation.'
16 equals 185? hmm...
Bach Festival 2000 St. Matthew PassionRobert Stone wrote (June 25, 2000):
To Scott Hoerl, Director
Westminster Conservatory and Continuing Education
Westminster Choir College of Rider University
I found your Website because of the enthusiastic comments of Robert Murphy who will be participating in the Bach Festival 2000 St. Matthew Passion chorus.
I am working with a group that is promoting Albert Schweitzer and J. S. Bach in this anniversary year, the 125th of Schweitzer's birth and the 250th of Bach's death.
In Jacques Barzun's new book "From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present" the 93-year-old historian says:
"Fortunately, he [Bach] has had one recent admirer who responded to the works with both knowledge and sensibility and whose detailed study set the god [Bach] in a new light. This was a Renaissance man of our century, Albert Schweitzer, musician, physician, philosopher, man of letters, and philanthropist. His detailed study demonstrated that Bach was not merely a master of complexity in musical form, but also a creator drama in sound." pp. 388-389
I will appreciate your getting information about our work to people at Westminster who are interested in Bach and/or Schweitzer. In addition to information on the web, material is available by mail at: Symposium 2000
Thurston Moore, Executive Director
304 West Due West Avenue
Madison TN 37115
Robert Stone, Research Assistant
Symposium 2000: a celebration of
Albert Schweitzer and J. S. Bach
Sept 30 - Oct 15, 2000, Nashville, Tennessee
Schedule of events at: http://spaceformusic.com/symposium2000/eventschedule.html
Menu page at: http://spaceformusic.com/symposium2000/main.html
- - - - -
Scott Hoerl, Director
Westminster Conservatory and Continuing Education
Westminster Choir College of Rider University
101 Walnut Lane, Princeton, NJ 08540
Phone: 609-924-7416 ext. 227
EXPERIENCE WESTMINSTER - SUMMER 2000
The High School Organ Institute (July 7-16)
Westminster Choral Festival - Robert Page (July 30-August 5) Westminster in Switzerland - James Jordan, coordinator (July 29-August 13)
Bach Festival 2000: St. Matthew Passion - Robin Leaver, Nancy Wilson,
Fuma Sacra; Andrew Megill, coordinator (July 2-8)
The Organ in Worhsip - Steven Pilkington (July 17-21)
The Bach's "St. Mark Passion" RumourRobert Murphy wrote (June 25, 2000):
I am will be in Bach heaven from July 2-8 at Westminster Choir College in Princeton NJ (my graduate alma mater) for Bach Festival 2000 which will focus on the St. Matthew passion. It's a weeklong workshop that will culminate in a performance at week's end with Fuma Sacra and Westminster Bach Orchestra. In addition to the rehearsals there will be study of the passion from a variety of perspectives, analysing the liturgical, theological and cultural backgrounds also master classes and individual lessons, master classes and discussions for conductors singers, keyboardists, lectures on performance practice, continuo practice and lectures on baroque instruments. I can't wait!
I have been listening to some of my recordings of the SMP and have found something quite surprising, in that what were some of my favourites are no longer so, and some I didn’t think highly of I really appreciate.
I have two recordings by Karl Richter, one from 1959 and the other from 1979. I really love the 1958 performance, it is not historically informed, but I find the passion, dedication, and above all, love for the work that I never grasped before! The 1979 is not as good, although the soloists should have been better, Edith Mathis, Janet Baker, Peter Schreier, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, but his performance is leaden and very heavy. I know that Richter died soon after.
I used to really like the Gardiner performance, but in comparison the 1958 Richter, I find it a bit too glib, and facile. Some of the tempos I find to be way too fast such as "Ich Will dir mein herzen schenken" although Barbara Bonney sing wonderfully, I don't find any kind of connection with the words.
I picked up a version by Eugen Jochum and the Concertgebouw Orchestra dating from 1964 in a used bookstore in downtown Minneapolis. It too is quite wonderful. I find that the soloists in Jochum and Richter were operas stars too and I find their voices more satisfying full and rich, they have colour in their voices, while in many in the historically informed performances I find the voices too white, lacking in colour, very cold sounding! Of course, that is just my own humble opinion!
Here is how I would rate my SMP record collection from favourite to least favourite:
1. Karl Richter (1959)
2. Eugen Jochum
3 Nikolaus Harnoncourt
4. John Eliot Gardner
5. Otto Klemperer
6. Karl Richter (1979)
7. David Willcocks
8. Nikolaus Harnoncourt (Concertgebouw, 1985)
Probably more than you wanted to know!
SMPDaniel Baldwin wrote (July 20, 2000):
I am a devotee of JSB's keyboard music, and I am now just beginning to explore the choral works. What recording of SMP would you recommend for a "first time buyer"? I tend to favour modern over period instruments, but more toward the "lean and mean" rather than the Romantic end of the interpretative spectrum. I do have open ears, so if a PI recording is great, I won't be prejudiced by my MI preference.
Thomas Boyce wrote (July 20, 2000):
Peter Bright wrote (July 20, 2000):
The first Bach purchase was Klemperer's St Matthew Passion. I still find it an awesome and emotionally draining experience and, while others are surely far more sensitive to Bach's predilections, I have not found another recording that moves me as much.
Modern instruments/large choral forces are (probably) rather unpopular among the majority of the Bach Discussion members. This, perhaps, isn't surprising giving the host of very beautiful "historically informed" series of cantatas and passions that have appeared relatively recently and/or are in progress (e.g., Suzuki, Junghänel, Gardiner). Klemperer's direction does result in performances which are so slow they sometimes almost seem to fall apart, but if you can find time to listen to the entire work, I think you will feel profoundly moved by the end of it. The singers were all at the height of their powers (especially Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Elizabeth Schwarzkopf) when the recording was made (circa 1960). Of the other versions I have, I am greatly impressed with Suzuki (although the drama seems to me a little under-played) and enjoy the Gardiner (I haven't heard all of Herreweghe or some of the others frequently discussed).
Hope this helps.
St Matthew-balletStijn De Paepe wrote (September 14, 2000):
Is any one able to tell me, which American choreographer created a ballet in 1981 on Bach's Matthew Passion (in a German church)?
You would help me a lot, if you could tell me.
Aya Itoi wrote (September 18, 2000):
That would be John Neumeier (from Wisconsin, US) for the Hamburg Ballet. He's been the Artistic Director of the company. I vaguely remember it being on a video, but - for the moment - do not know which video company has produced it or if it is possible to buy or not, etc ...
Stijn De Paepe wrote (September 19, 2000):
(To Aya Itoi) Thank you very, very much!
Continue on Part 2