Matthäus-Passion BWV 244
Conducted by Andrew Parrott
Not release yet.
New York Times Review: Andrew Parrot & New York Collegium: BWV 244
Teri Noel Towe wrote (March 6, 2005):
Click here: The New York Times > Arts > Music > Music Review | 'St. Matthew Passion': When Being in the Chorus Carries a Big R
March 5, 2005 MUSIC REVIEW | 'ST. MATTHEW PASSION'
When Being in the Chorus Carries a Big Responsibility
By JAMES R. OESTREICH
To judge from the streams of listeners fleeing the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola at intermission on Thursday, you might have thought that the culprit was Schoenberg. Instead, this was an evening of Bach: one of the most beloved works in Western music, the "St. Matthew Passion," performed by Andrew Parrott and the New York Collegium.
In fairness, many more listeners stayed to the end and applauded loudly. Still, as much as one might like to dismiss the defectors sniffily as narrow-minded and wrongheaded, matters were not so simple.
Bach's choral works have been a topic of hot debate since 1981, when the musicologist Joshua Rifkin proposed that Bach would typically have performed them with a single voice to a part: thus, a chorus made up of the four soloists or, as in the "St. Matthew Passion," a double chorus of eight. That argument has gained currency in recent years, largely through the efforts of Mr. Parrott in his performances and his book "The Essential Bach Choir."
As music director of the New York Collegium, Mr. Parrott applied his minimalizing notions three years ago to Bach's "St. John Passion," a work that has long been controversial anyway for what some see as anti-Semitism in its text. But the "St. Matthew" is as canonic as music gets, and it has come down to us through performances monumental in stature, nowhere more so than in its imposing opening chorus.
Listeners unburdened by musicological agendas expect a certain grandeur. And though the collegium addressed the matter in its program notes and, presumably, in a preconcert lecture, many in the audience must have wondered where the "chorus" was, and been discomfited by what they heard.
It might have been useful if Mr. Parrott had offered the briefest of explanations beforehand. He undoubtedly feels that the performance should speak for itself, and to an extent, he is right. But this performance failed to buttress the case he makes persuasively on paper.
In that opening chorus, with the eight soloists singing eight different parts (and three women replacing the usual boys' choir), you could usually tell that they were singing, but it was often impossible to tell what they were singing, in terms of melodic line or text.
True, the variables were many, including the church's acoustics (highly reverberant), the strength and stamina of the performers (iffy) and the sheer quality of the performance (uneven). Many instances of queasy intonation and slippery ensemble from both singers and players did not help.
The evening's satisfactions came mostly from individual performances, especially that of the bass Thomas Meglioranza, who sang beautifully and warmly as Jesus. Marc Molomot, a tenor, was nothing if not game, carrying a load of arias and choruses in addition to the taxing role of the Evangelist.
You have to hope that the brave singers, after a repeat performance last night, are sleeping long and hard this morning.
Neil Halliday wrote (March 7, 2005):
[To Teri Noel Towe] It just goes to show that if you are going to present OVPP Bach choruses, then you need absolutely the finest singers and players; the lack of the expected traditional "grandeur" must be countered by breathtaking musicianship.
Judging from the reviewer's report, the New York Collegium did not meet that standard.
In any case, if I were directing a performance of the SMP, I would regard myself a failure if even one patron (from disappointment) abandoned the work at intermission; to have "streams of listeners fleeing the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola at intermission" I would regard as an unmitigated disaster.
Boyd Pehrson wrote (March 7, 2005):
[To Neil Halliday] I have found the OVPP performances of J.S. Bach Cantatas and Passions to be boring and monotonous. After a while I too would run out the door, even at home. The music was never designed to be sung that way.
Charlie Ervin McCarn wrote (March 11, 2005):
Streams of listeners?
< I would regard myself a failure if even one patron (from disappointment) abandoned the work at intermission; to have "streams of listeners fleeing the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola at intermission" I would regard as an unmitigated disaster. >
A friend of mine in New York told me that "streams of listeners" is exaggerated. He also told me that the reviewer, James Oestreich, was an early supporter of Rifkin but now has backed away from it. If I understand my friend accurately, one of the major outside contributors of articles about Bach to the Times is George Stauffer, who is hostile to the one player and singer to each part concept.
Andrew Parrott: Short Biography | Taverner Consort & Players | Recordings | General Discussions | BWV 244 - Parrott | BWV 245 - Parrott | Book – The Essential Bach Choir – Parrott