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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
General Discussions - Part 17

Continue from Part 15

New articles uploaded

Uri Golomb wrote (September 16, 2010):
Aryeh Oron has just uploaded a paper I wrote on televised productions of Bach's passions:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/Passion-Hierarchy%5BGolomb%5D.htm

I have also written a review of a recent album containing a performance of the Art of Fugue and a fascinating DVD documentary and lecture on this work - this was placed online a few months ago, but apparently I forgot to tell the lists at the time.
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/NonVocal/AOF-Ritchie.htm

Hope you enjoy these!

 

Some Upcoming Passion Releases

Andrew White (Drew) wrote (March 4, 2011):
Some exciting new / upcoming releases of Bach's Passions:

1. Gardiner, St. John Passion (recorded 2003)
http://www.solideogloria.co.uk/recordings/other_releases.cfm#top

Just received this one in the mail. Can't say much about it at this point in my early listening, except that it sounds very different from Gardiner's previous recording on Archiv. More contemplative and dramatic (paradoxical as that may sound). The Cantata Pilgrimage clearly transformed Gardiner's approach to Bach's sacred music. Bernarda Fink's "Es ist vollbracht" is gorgeous, as is Katherine Fuge's "Zerfliesse mein Herze."

2. van Veldhoven, St. Matthew Passion
http://www.mdt.co.uk/MDTSite/product/NR_April11/CCSSA32511.htm

I'll have to buy this one since I already have the previous releases in this series: Christmas Oratorio, John Passion, and Mass in B minor. The packaging of this series, alone, justifies the price. Nice to see that kind of quality in the age of digital downloads.

3. Pierlot, St. John Passion
http://www.prestoclassical.co.uk/r/Mirare/MIR136
http://www.mirare.fr/DisquesMirare/Ricercar-Passion.html
(sound sample: "Ruht Wohl")

His previous Bach recordings have been very enjoyable, particularly his Trauerode and Magnificat. This one ought to be good, judging from the sound sample.

4. Bruggen, St. John Passion
http://www.glossamusic.com/glossa/reference.aspx?id=224

I haven't heard Bruggen's recent recording of the Mass in B minor (also on Glossa). How does it compare with his older recording? And I wonder, too, how this new SJP will compare with Bruggen's older recording (which is quite good).

Claudio Di Veroli wrote (March 4, 2011):
Andrew White:
< 2. van Veldhoven, St. Matthew Passion
http://www.mdt.co.uk/MDTSite/product/NR_April11/CCSSA32511.htm >
Thanks Andrew,

any place one can here samples? For example a few bars at the beginning. In spite of some existing studies, I to believe that Bach could not possibly have intended this (and many other choirs/chorales) not even nearly as fast as is performed nowadays, so much so that often details clearly written in the score are completely lost.

Andrew White wrote (March 4, 2011):
[To Claudio De Veroli] You're concerned because Velhoven's recording fits onto two discs? True -- there are not many that do. van Veldhoven's first recording (late 90's), on three discs, is 164.55. But more recent recordings do tend to be around 160 minutes.

John Butt's recording, on three discs, is just over 160 minutes (161.16). That's actually briefer than McCreesh's recording, which is on two discs (somehow they found extra space), which clocks in at 161.32. Harnoncourt's newest recording isn't much longer: 162.15. The same goes for Herreweghe's second recording: 161.22. Koopman's and Kuijken's (latest) recordings are both just under 160 minutes.

But your concern seems to be that the trend is to take Der Grosse Passion too fast. And it is such a colossal work -- in terms of scope, scale, invention, etc. -- outstripping Bach's predecessors and contemporaries by a huge margin. Not to be rushed but relished.

Certainly taste in tempi have changed since von Klemperer's 1961 recording, with its glacially-paced opening chorus. The whole work takes 223:29, one hour longer than most recordings today.

I haven't been able to track down any sound samples of the new van Veldhoven myself. Perhaps someone else might be able to find something, or we may have to wait a bit (since the set is not due for release until mid-April).

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 4, 2011):
Klemperer Fideles

Andrew White wrote:
< Certainly taste in tempi have changed since von Klemperer's 1961 recording, with its glacially-paced opening chorus. The whole work takes 223:29, one hour longer than most recordings today. >
Although Klemperer's Bach is ridiculed almost as much as Beecham's Handel these days, his Matthew Passion is a remarkable performance. I never cease to be amazed at the ensemble of choir and orchestra in the opening chorus as Klemperer introduces extravagant Romantic tempo and dynamic changes. They must have rehearsed for months to achieve those effects.

Andrew White wrote (March 4, 2011):
[To Douglas Cowling] I also hold the Klemperer SMP in high esteem -- I have the original Angel LP set (from 1962 -- hmm, its 50th anniversary is next year), and it is one of my most prized recordings. And of course some of the soloists are 20th century legends: Peter Pears, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf.

My comparison, then, was not intended to be disparaging. I simply wanted contrast current tempi with those of the past. Klemperer's recording is regarded to be seminal by many -- so where does clipping off one hour of the recorded time of the SMP leave us? Certainly in modern performances the dance element is more prominent, at least in some of the music. But, particularly given that the passion setting was performed on Good Friday (perhaps the most sombre day of the church year), how much Schwung is too much? (and that question gets us into the murky realm of aesthetics).

I can relate to Claudio's concern -- perhaps the pendulum will swing once again, towards more moderate tempi? But, of course, terms like "brisk" and "moderate" are relative. It doesn't seem, though, like tempi can become much more brisk (particularly after the approach of Goebel and MAK).

One thing I have noticed in my years of acquaintance with Bach's music -- it possesses remarkable elasticity. I have heard different readings of the same piece taken at contrasting tempi, but which are all equally convincing. For a time I might prefer a faster tempo, at other times a slower tempo. I guess we are spoiled for choice.

Slow(er) tempi can be very effective when used by HIP ensembles, even if they seem affected or unnatural (whatever those terms mean). A case in point: Gardiner's remarkable (stunning, really) reading of the bass aria from BWV 13. One of the highlights of his Cantata Pilgrimage, in my opinion, but too risky and somewhat dubious for some people, no doubt.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 5, 2011):
Andrew White wrote:
< I can relate to Claudio's concern -- perhaps the pendulum will swing once again, towards more moderate tempi? But, of course, terms like "brisk" and "moderate" are relative. It doesn't seem, though, like tempi can become much more brisk (particularly after the approach of Goebel and MAK). >
I am impressed more and more, with all the performances available for comparison, how much brisk or moderate are relative to other most recent listening.

< One thing I have noticed in my years of acquaintance with Bach's music -- it possesses remarkable elasticity. >
What a fine choice of words! You can expect to read that again in the future.

< I have heard different readings of the same piece taken at contrasting tempi, but ware all equally convincing. For a time I might prefer a faster tempo, at other times a slower tempo. I guess we are spoiled for choice. >
Perhaps blessed? Best not to count on it.

Uri Golomb wrote (March 5, 2011):
I think the pendulum is already beginning to swing towards more moderate tempi, certainly for the more somber movements. In my research on recordings of the B-minor Mass, I found the fastest tempi for movements like the First Kyrie and the Crucifixus were mainly in the 1980s and early 1990s. since then, while there has not been a return to the absolutely slowest tempi (in the First Kyrie, that would be Klemperer and Scherchen), there has been a return to something in between. Mind you, Klemperer was quite slow even in comparison to many of his contemporaries (this is not criticism or praise - just a factual observation).

Not that tempo is the only important factor. I sometimes found myself thinking that performance A is faster than performance B only to check and discover that the tempo is actually the same - the difference was due to other factors (dynamics, articulation etc.).

Claudio Di Veroli wrote (March 5, 2011):
Klemperer Fideles-Matthaus Tempi

< Not that tempo is the only important factor ... >
CPE Bach categorically wrote in 1753 that tempo was THE most important factor in interpretation. Though we do not know for sure, chances are that the old Bach would agree.

Let me use the metronome when talking about tempi.

I am lucky enough to have possessed successively four of the most widely known recordings.

1936: conductor Mengelberg, reissued in the 1950's in LPs, which for some time was the only recording around. In many countries nobody had ever heard about the work and it took the musical world by surprise. Very Romantic of course. The first choir (http://www.soundfountain.com/amb/phmil.html) was a lethargic 102 quavers per minute.

1958: conductor Karl Richter. A so-called Modern performance. This was the first (and best seller) of his four recordings. (Amazon.com) with a initial tempo of still very slow 113 quavers per minute.

1978: conductor Harnoncourt. First recording with period instruments. He also would produce later recordings: Amazon.com once had the LPs. No sample tracks online, cannot tell the speed.

1988: conductor Gardiner. Second recording with period instruments and hailed as the best ever two decades ago. Amazon.com
Interestingly, with my precision digital metronome I measured the online sample at 154 quavers per minute, while the CD starts at about 156 but then soon accelerates and towards the end of the choir it is 160 per minute.

Gardiner's 158 average does not sound hurried, but it is A LITTLE too fast: the first flute solo (bar 24 if I counted right), the g" and f#" are (the first of many pairs of ) demisemiquavers! OK, it is a schleifer of sorts, but it benefits from a slightly slower tempo. And the end of the movement really sounds too fast.

My tempo: relatively fast but still thoughtful 152.

"My topence' worth"

Teri Noel Towe wrote (March 7, 2011):
Claudio Di Veroli wrote:
< 1936: conductor Mengelberg, reissued in the 1950's in LPs, which for some time was the only recording around. In many countries nobody had ever heard about the work and it took the musical world by surprise. Very Romantic of course. The first choir (http://www.soundfountain.com/amb/phmil.html) was a lethargic 102 quavers per minute. >
The Mengelberg performance was recorded in concert in 1939, not 1936.

The first recording of the opening chorus dates from around 1926. Here is what I had to say about that first recording in article published two decades ago:

Siegfried Ochs's account, with the Berliner Philharmonischer Chor, of the same chorus, recorded a dozen or so years earlier, represents the opposite extreme. [6] With its long, vehement phrases and its fast, urgent tempo, it is the very antithesis of Mengelberg's performance, but it may well provide a more accurate indicium of the prevailing mainstream 19th-century Bach performance style than Mengelberg's, and it is surely more representative of the kind of Bach performance heard in Germany at the time of Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Schumann, and Brahms. For the orchestral introduction, Ochs sets a tempo of dotted quarter note = 72 to 74, but he slows down to dotted quarter note = 70 to 72 when the chorus enters; at bar 26 - the "Sehet? Wie?" antiphonal
passages - he slows the tempo to dotted quarter note = 63 to 68, almost as though introducing the second theme in the "old" German symphonic fashion; and at bars 37 and 38 he ritards the tempo to an average of dotted quarter note = 57, but he quickly returns to the brisk tempos he had previously established. (Incidentally, lest someone claim that Ochs rushed the tempo of the opening chorus of the Saint Matthew Passion in order to fit the work onto two sides of a 78, that is highly unlikely. The performance is split over two sides of a 12" disc, and lasts 5 minutes, 26 seconds. At the time this recording was made, the standard working maximum for a 12" side was 4 minutes, 25 seconds. There were, therefore, 3 minutes, 34 seconds of which Ochs could have taken advantage, but didn't.)

Born in Frankfurt-am-Main in 1858, Ochs abandoned the prospect of a successful career as a chemist in his late teens and moved to Berlin, where he studied at the Hochschule für Musik, taking ensemble playing form Joseph Joachim and choral singing from Adolf Schulze. The choral society that Ochs founded in 1882 became the Berlin Philharmonic Choir in 1888, and was conducted several times between 1888 and 1892 by Hans von Bulow, who had studied with Moritz Hauptmann in Leipzig. Von Bulow was a prominent figure in the Bach revival and an admirer of Ochs's work. A founding member of the Neue Bach-Gesellschaft, Ochs was something of a specialist in early music and made the first recording of any composition by Heinrich Schütz. He also gave the first performance in Berlin of the Bruckner Te Deum. As Martin Elste remarked in his "New Grove" entry on Ochs, he was "noted for his extreme care in rehearsing, fine musicianship, and natural sense of style (especially in early music)." [7] Ochs died in 1929.

What are the most important aspects of that biography as far as we are concerned? First, Ochs's interest in early music in general and in Bach in particular. Second, Ochs's academic pedigree -- his training at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin. This latter aspect is of particular interest, especially since those who regard the Mengelberg type of performance as an accurate reflection of 19th-century Bach performance practice can easily argue that it was Ochs, and not Mengelberg, who deviated from the prevailing style in a conscious attempt to resurrect a more "authentic" performance practice. Both his interest in early music and his founding membership in the Neue Bach-Gesellschaft might be cited as support for that position. Conceivably those who so argue could be right, but several factors suggest otherwise. The activities of such distinguished predecessors of Ochs as Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Brahms, Spitta, and Joachim -- all of whom shared a sincere commitment to early music and all of whom performed Bach in the prevailing "modern" style of their time -- and Ochs's training at the Hochschule für Musik both argue cogently to the contrary.

For those who might be interested, here is a to the complete article: http://www.npj.com/homepage/teritowe/jsbpdm00.html

Claudio Di Veroli wrote (March 7, 2011):
Claudio Di Veroli wrote:
< 1936: conductor Mengelberg, reissued in the 1950's in LPs, which for some time was the only recording around. In many countries nobody had ever heard about the work and it took the musical world by surprise. Very Romantic of course. The first choir (http://www.soundfountain.com/amb/phmil.html) was a lethargic 102 quavers per minute. >
Teri Noel Towe wrote:
< The Mengelberg performance was recorded in concert in 1939, not 1936. >
Well spotted, Teri, sorry I reversed the number when typing ... :-)

< The first recording of the opening chorus dates from around 1926. Here is what I had to say about that first recording in article published two decades ago: Siegfried Ochs's account, ...
For those who might be interested, here is a link to the complete article:
http://www.npj.com/homepage/teritowe/jsbpdm00.html >
Thanks Teri for your most interesting post and most informative article!

Nevertheless, I may be wrong, but even if Ochs's recording was earlier, I understand that it was the Philips record box (in Europe) and the Columbia one (in the Americas) that was widespread and most influential around in the 1950's and beyond.

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 7, 2011):
Teri Noel Towe wrote:
< The Mengelberg performance was recorded in concert in 1939, not 1936.
The first recording of the opening chorus dates from around 1926. Here is what I had to say about that first recording in article published two decades ago: >
Has anyone seen the Oberammergau Passion Play? Evidently the incidental music was written in the 20's and is full of symphonic arrangements of excerpts from the Bach Passions. It would be interesting if they preserved the older approach to Bach.

Teri Noel Towe wrote (March 8, 2011):
SMP in 1950s

Claudio Di Veroli wrote:
< Thanks Teri for your most interesting post and most informative article!
Nevertheless, I may be wrong, but even if Ochs's recording was earlier, I understand that it was the Philips record box (in Europe) and the Columbia one (in the Americas) that was widespread and most influential around in the 1950's and beyond. >
In the early 1950s, in the USA at least, the Fritz Lehmann and the Hermann Scherchen recordings also circulated widely.

Claudio Di Veroli wrote (March 8, 2011):
Thanks Teri again

Teri Noel Towe wrote:
< In the early 1950s, in the USA at least, the Fritz Lehmann and the Hermann Scherchen recordings also circulated widely. >
Good to know. Let me just comment that Lehman was from 1949 and Scherchen was from 1953: this confirms my initial belief that Mengelberg was the earliest recording that circulated widely.

Arthur Robinson wrote (March 21, 2011):
Claudio Di Veroli wrote:
< Good to know. Let me just comment that Lehman was from 1949 and Scherchen was from 1953: this confirms my initial belief that Mengelberg was the earliest recording that circulated widely. >
I believe that conclusion is incorrect. I don't think that the Mengelberg was published in the United States, at least, until around 1953.

Teri Noel Towe wrote (March 22, 2011):
SMP recordings in the 1950s


[To Arthur Robinson] According to the 1958 edition of Nathan Broder's "The Collector's Bach", the following recordings of the St. Matthew Passion, listed in alphabetical order by conductor, were available in the United States:

Ferdinand Grossmann
Ernest MacMillan
Willem Mengelberg
Hermann Scherchen
Kurt Thomas
Piet van Egmond

By 1958, the Lehmann recording already had been deleted.

I hope that this information is helpful.

 

The Companion To J.S. Bach St. Matthew Passion

Anandgyan wrote (March 9, 2011):
Read all about it here: http://www.jmu.edu/music/faculty_areas/music_history/bach.pdf

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 12, 2011):
The PDF book, "A Companion to J. S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion", recently uploaded to this site has some remarkable analyses. I have a question about the facts in the following chapter:

"A Historical Biography of J.S. Bach¹s St. Matthew Passion BWV 244" Steven Hildebrand

"These two ensembles were placed opposite one another to create an antiphonal effect ...

It is important to note that Bach made a few key revisions to the Passion in 1736. One of the most important of these additions included the addition of two organs, placed in opposite balconies to accompany the ensemble."

The writer seems to restate the old supposition that the Passion's two choirs and orchestras were placed in the choir loft and in the chancel arch gallery. I thought the majority of scholars agreed that both ensembles performed in the choir loft at the west end and that the third ripieno choir was placed in the "Swallow's Nest" gallery of the chancel arch.

 

Story about the SMP

Uri Golomb wrote (July 8, 2011):
This story has been forwarded to another musical list I'm on. Would be curious to hear some reactions.
http://tuistgeorgetucker.com/biography%20content/The%20Music%20Copyist.pdf

Ehud Shiloni wrote (July 8, 2011):
[To Uri Golomb] A funny little story - reminiscent of "Hasidic" tales.

Here is another one for you [my own guess is that the fellow was playing the prelude of Cello Site #5...:-)]: http://www.benyehuda.org/perets/neshamot3.html

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 8, 2011):
[To Uri Golomb] The story is a rather clever surrealist fable -- reminds me of some of the short stories of Donald Barthelme. The "Once upon a time" lures you into an expectation of simplicity. But the narrative has a nice quirk: a second story, that of the school concert, is told whose detail is so flamboyant and surreal that the reader forgets that there is a story-within-a-story. We come back with a bump to the violist's party just in time for the formal fairy-tale close which announces that he was part of the concert.

I suppose one could suggest that it is an allegory of transformation through art, but I suspect the author is just enjoying drawing us into not one but two narrative constructs. The use of the St. Matthew Passion is purely for
its iconic title: the writer clearly know nothing about the work.

Thanks for the link.

 

BWV 244 (SMP) -- [was: Introduction to BWV 45]

Continue of discussion from: Cantata BWV 45 - Discussions Part 3

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 14, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< It is good to see comments on recordings, especially the classic LP versions from the 1950s and 60s, most of which remain available only in that format. Many of these had very positive comments from BCML correspondents in early discussions, still available in the archives. >
It is interesting to listen to some of the older recordings, especially Klemperer and Scherchen, and realize how much rehearsal time went into these Romantic readings. The Klemperer SMP is a marvel of balance and ensemble, magnificent in its albeit misinterpretation of the work. He must have had hours and hours of rehearsal time to achieve those effects!

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 14, 2011):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< It is interesting to listen to some of the older recordings, especially Klemperer and Scherchen, and realize how much rehearsal time went into these Romantic readings. The Klemperer SMP is a marvel of balance and ensemble, magnificent in its albeit misinterpretation of the work. He must have had hours and hours of rehearsal time to achieve those effects! >
Here is a relevant comment I ran across by coincidence, from a quite lengthy and detailed review by Peter Watchorn of the Munchinger SMP, posted at amazon.com,:

<The vocal soloists deserve special comment. First, Peter Pears' famous interpretation of the role of the Evangelist is simply astonishing for its , agility and impeccably expressive German. His famous slow vibrato is usually absent here - and he sings with great authority, observing the expressive and stylistically required appoggiaturas throughout. He is assisted in this recording (he also recorded the work under Otto Klemperer for EMI) by the correct secco realization of the basso continuo accompaniment: in the score of the St. Matthew the continuo bass notes are actually notated as they are meant to be played, as short notes interspersed with rests (rather than as long notes with ties). In this respect, and only in this recording, Münchinger foreshadowed the correct interpretation of German secco recitative by Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Gustav Leonhardt in the 1970s.> (end quote)

Note in particular the comment re correct secco realization of basso continuo, which has been a topic of much contention in BCML discussions, over the years.

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 14, 2011):
Bach and Adolphe Appia

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Here is a relevant comment I ran across by coincidence, from a quite lengthy and detailed review by Peter Watchorn of the Munchinger SMP, posted at amazon.com. >
While we're on the subject of German Romantic interpretations of Bach, some listers may be interested in exploring the theatre work of Adolphe Appia (1862 -1928). Appia was the first stage designer to abandon painted flats with front illumination for three-dimensional sets with lighting that has thematic and psychological meaning.

As a Wagnerian, I ran across his work for revolutionary productions of the Ring Cycle with modern lighting. I was intrigued that he also planned a staged production of the St. Matthew Passion on a fixed set with shifting light productions for each scene. The biblical characters would act on stage while the orchestra and choir "of thousands" would be invisible. This PDF link shows several maquettes for the Bach production as well as his opera work: www.olakraszpulska.com/presentation2.pdf

I thought immediately of Klemperer when I read about this production which alas was never mounted.

Warren Prestidge wrote (September 15, 2011):
[To Ed Myskowski] For me Klemperer's SMP remains the greatest reading of this work. The subject is so weighty, the music is so rich, and the performance is so outstanding and committed, that the slow tempi hardly ever bother me. In fact, in the case of the last number in Part One (O Mensch bewein' dein' Sunde gross), I remain totally unconvinced by the modern practice of adopting a quick tempo. Klemperer is perhaps extreme, I know, but I think surely this monumental piece is a contemplative, mournful lament.

George Bromley wrote (September 15, 2011):
[To Douglas Cowling] The 'Stage production' of the St Matthew fascinates me, how about a modern performance please (in London).

Julian Mincham wrote (September 15, 2011):
[To George Bromley] Jonathan Miller produced an updated recording of it on TV some years ago. I have an old video of it --maybe someone knows if it is commercially available.

I must give it another viewing to see how it stands up today.

George Bromley wrote (September 15, 2011):
[To Julian Mincham] Gosh that sounds fantastic, please How can I get a dvd copy.

Julian Mincham wrote (September 15, 2011):
[To George Bromley]
http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/66121/productions/st-matthew-passion.html

George I don't know about whether that production is available--maybe from the BBC? But try the above link which takes you to a National Theartre production on St MP later this month. This may well be what you are looking for!

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 16, 2011):
Bach SMP on NBC 1964

Julian Mincham wrote:
< http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/66121/productions/st-matthew-passion.html
I don't know about whether that production is available--maybe from the BBC? But try the above link which takes you to a National Theartre production on St MP later this month. This may well be what you are looking for! >
I've written about this before, but when I was a very impressionable teenager, I saw the "NBC Television Opera Theatre" dramatization of the St. Matthew Passion (Original Air Date: 22 March 1964). Alfred Wallenstein was the conductor and Maureen Forrester sang the alto solos.

It was very interesting because it used the cinematic techniques of television quite dramatically. It opened with the procession to Calvary of the choir dressed in "biblical" costume and the raising of the cross. In silohuettes and cross-fading montage.

When the recitative narrative began, the shot shifted to the Evangelist dressed as a modern minister with white collar reading the story from the bible in a pulpit. The chorales showed the chorus in modern dress sitting in the pews of a church.

When the biblical narrative had dialogue, the singers and chorus appeared in biblical dress and acted the parts. The positioning of the chorus was very suggestive, as the viewer could see the same choristers as both modern and biblical characters in the drama.

The arias were sung by singers in biblical dress overlooking a tableau of the scene or at the foot of the cross of the opening chorus. There were some remarkably cinematic touches. In Nun Ist Mein Jesu, the soprano and alto were shown overlooking the arrest of Christ. The Choir II shouts of "Lass ihn" were fast cuts to the chorus as a mob pressing against Roman guards. Bach had a great cinematic sense.

Remarkably, there is very little information about the production on the internet and no DVDs: http://www.imdb.pt/name/nm0001925/

I wish it was available to see now. It made an indelible impression on me. I must go into NBC or the Lincoln Centre Library the next time I'm in New York and see if it's accessible.

Did anyone else see it?

Uri Golomb wrote (September 17, 2011):
[To Douglas Cowling] The production of the St Matthew Passion that will soon be starting at the National Theatre in London (I'll be attending the first preview) is a revival of a production that Jonathan Miller (as director) and Paul Goodwin (as conductor) have been putting on for about 18 years, with varied casts. A BBC filming of the complete production (filmed in studio conditions and sung in German - unlike most of their live versions, which were sung in English) is available on Youtube in twelve parts; the first part is on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MO64Sh24kHY

I'll write more about this after I've seen the live version.

I have written a paper on another film which might be called a "staging" of the Matthew Passion - Hugo Kach's 1971 film of Karl Richter's performance. Though the singers and players are all dressed as they would be at a concert performance, and there's almost no acting, the set design and the camera and lighting work are so intensive that I think this could count as a dramatization. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/Passion-Hierarchy%5BGolomb%5D.htm

(if this doesn't work, try: http://tinyurl.com/28356ls ) Another fascinating live staging - not filmed,
unfortunately, was Deborah Warner's version of the St John Passion: www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/SJP-Stage[Golomb].htm

I was most intrigued to read Douglas's description of the 1964 NBC version. If anybody can tell me more about this - either on or off list - I'll be most grateful, as I would be for information on other stagings of the Bach Passions. I am planning to write a paper about this, focusing on the Kach and Miller versions of the SMP, so any information on other stagings will be most helpful.

Linda Gingrich wrote (September 17, 2011):
My conducting teacher, Abraham Kaplan, conducted a seof four (I think) staged performances of the St. Matthew Passion in the mid-1970s with the San Francisco Opera Merola program. I suspect it wasn't recorded, although I don't know. He was panned in the press before the production opened, but after opening night the critics changed their tune (pun intended!). He occasionally shared stories about the production in class, and they were so moving that they inspired me to conduct a semi-staged production of the St. John Passion last winter. It might be interesting to track down how many staged performances of either of the Passions have been produced over the years. A fad, or a necessary way to communicate these great works with modern audiences?

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 17, 2011):
Bach and Oberammergau Passion Play

Linda Gingrich wrote:
< It might be interesting to track down how manystaged performances of either of the Passions have been produced over the years. >
I've always wondered whether Bach and his Lutheran contemporaries knew of the Oberammergau Passion Play from Catholic Bavaria which had substantial incidental music for chorus and orchestra. The present score by Rochus Dedler dates from the turn of the 19th century and has a late Classical cast to it. It reminds me of Haydn's "Seven Last Words" and Beethoven's "Christ on the Mount of Olives."

Here are a couple live-streaming links: http://www.oberammergau-passion.com/en-us/the-music/the-music.html

I read somewhere that excerpts from the Bach Passions had been added to the score in the 19th century, but I can't find a cue list online.

Aryeh Oron wrote (September 18, 2011):
SMP on NBC 1964 & Alfred Wallenstein's Bach Cantatas

[To Douglas Cowling & Uri Golomb] I have not seen this the NBC TV SMP, but I have found the original broadcast dates and the singers.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Wallenstein.htm
I have added bio pages/updated current bios of the participants (except John Bryden ?).
The relevant page of SMP on the BCW would be updated later.

While compiling the bio of Alfred Wallenstein, I was surprised to discover that in the period he was Music Director of WOR radio station in New York (1935-1945), Wallenstein gave on Sunday evenings a series of Bach Cantatas with his Sinfonietta. That means that he was one of the first to introduce Bach Cantata series to the American audience. I wonder if those broadcasts were recorded.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (September 18, 2011):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< I wonder if those broadcasts were recorded. >
Doubtful. Magnetic tape was only invented in the 1940s, but I have heard recordings of radio shows (e.g. Orson Welles "War of the Worlds" broadcast), so maybe they used a phonograph to record them (there were phonograph "recorders" back then). I had been looking for DeKoven's radio shows "DeKoven Presents!" a rare show featuring baroque music with lively commentary and selections from recordings. The series ran from the late 1950s I think until the late 1970s.I found out that the tapes were donated to a university library and contacted the curator. Due to the normal aging process, and poor storage conditions—the tapes are nearly inaudible. But the curator has slowly been restoring some of the tapes, and sent me a few CDs of the final edits.

Good luck

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 17, 2011):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< Doubtful. Magnetic tape was only invented in the 1940s, but I have heard recordings of radio shows (e.g. Orson Welles "War of the Worlds" broadcast), so maybe they used a phonograph to record them (there were
phonograph "recorders" back then). >
The production must have been filmed because of the sophisticated montage editing, and the singers -- the choir in particular -- appear in modern and biblical costumes in a rapid succession of scenes.

Does NBC have an archival library?

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (September 18, 2011):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< The production must have been filmed because of the sophisticated montage editing, and the singers -- the choir in particular -- appear in modern and biblical costumes in a rapid succession of scenes. >
I was answering the question about the WOR radio broadcasts from the 1930s/1940s.

And yes NBC has an archives, but it's a hit or miss proposition for specific things. For example, they didn't even archive the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson until around 1971, because of the high cost of video tape. Cinderella, the musical created for CBS by Rodgers & Hammerstein was extremely elaborate by any Broadway standards, much less live television, but despite all that, it only survives in a black and white kinescope. (I'm speaking about the first broadcast version with Julie Andrews). CBS didn't film in at all. A shame too.

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 19, 2011):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< Doubtful. Magnetic tape was only invented in the 1940s, but I have heard recordings of radio shows (e.g. Orson Welles "War of the Worlds" broadcast), so maybe they used a phonograph to record them (there were phonograph "recorders" back then). >
EM:
The earliest documented recording of SMP was by Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Good Friday, March 26, 1937. It was performed in English translation, the text apparently cobbled together from various editions, at the last minute. Recording was reportedly direct to 78 RPM phonograph records, from the live performance. The logistic challenges are mind boggling. The Rockport Records CD reissue, dated 2000, is listed in the BCW discography. Accompanying booklet otes include the text, as performed.

I vaguely recall mention of an even earlier German recording effort, but I do not have the reference at hand.

DC
< The production must have been filmed because of the sophisticated montage editing, and the singers -- the choir in particular -- appear in modern and biblical costumes in a rapid succession of scenes.
Does NBC have an archival library? >
EM:
Key observations. Perhaps the original, or documentation of it, can re recovered?

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 19, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< The earliest documented recording of SMP was by Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Good Friday, March 26, 1937.
[...]
I vaguely recall mention of an even earlier German recording effort, but I do not have the reference at hand. >
Apologies for not checking BCW archives first. The correct discographic information, including recordings preceding Koussevitzky, are documented there.

 

BCW: Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 - Over 200 recordings!

Aryeh Oron wrote (October 10, 2011):
The discography of Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 on the BCW contains now 201 complete (or near complete) recordings. The discography presents every known recording of this masterpiece, both official/commercial and unofficial, from David McKinley Williams c1930:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV244-Rec1.htm
to 3 new recordings from April 2011:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV244-Rec9.htm
If you are aware of a recording missing from the discography, please inform me.

 

BCW: Matthäus-Passion Discography

Aryeh Oron wrote (November 8, 2012):
In church music, Passion is a term for sung musical settings of the Gospel texts covering the Passion of Jesus, the events leading up to the Crucifixion of Jesus, and emphasising his suffering. Matthäus-Passion by J.S. Bach is definitely the most popular musical setting depicting the Passion story, and is considered by many as the most sublime musical work ever composed.

The discography pages of the Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 have been revised and updated. Over 40 new recordings have been added since the last revision over a year ago. The discography presents now 248 different recordings (every recordings is presented only once, including all its releases). The discography is aimed to be comprehensive. Therefore it includes not only all officiallyreleased recordings, but also many privately released and unofficial recordings.

The discography is arranged chronologically, a page per a decade, starting at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV244-Rec1.htm
This page has inter-links to the pages of following decades.

You can notice that some recordings are presented with missing details. I am also quite certain that there are recordings of which I am not aware. Therefore, if you have any correction, addition, etc., please do not hesitate to inform me.

 

Bach St. Matthew Passion [BACH-LIST]

Zachary Uram wrote (September 25, 2013):
This is Bach's St. Matthew passion. It is possibly the greatest of all choral music ever written. Enjoy this complete performance. Bach signed each piece of music S.D.G. on the bottom for "Soli Deo Gloria" (To God Alone the Glory) and he wrote on his music J.J. for "Jesu Juva" (Jesus help!). An amazing Christian witness, Bach is known as the musical apostle for Christ. He had around 23 children too.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVo6YUlwfeA

Charles Francis wrote (September 27, 2013):
For comparison, a sombre interpretation that predates Richter: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7z8sKpr8T4

And one in modern style that rather misses ‘klagen’ (moan, lament, wail, bewail, cry etc.): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECWPpJjGK7k

This live performance is better in that respect: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaD5e0w2srU

Kyle Renick wrote (September 27, 2013):
[To Charles Francis] I was privileged to be in the Thomaskirche in Leipzig for the 250th anniversary celebration of the life of J.S. Bach in July 2000, and Herreweghe conducted a transformative performance of the St. Matthew Passion (Robin Blaze is the single finest alto I have heard in this work after Janet Baker). I own two CD recordings of the work with Herreweghe presiding, and I think both are among the very best available. I highly recommend the live performance referred to below [above].

 

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 | Part 17 | 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]

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: ýOctober 14, 2013 ý08:18:07