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Matthäus-Passion BWV 244
Conducted by Christoph Spering

 

V-1

Bach: Mendelssohn 1841 Leipzig Matthaüs-Passion

 

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 - arragement made by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy in 1841 for St. Thomas's Church, Leipzig

Christoph Spering

Chorus Musicus Köln / Das Neue Orchester [pitch: 430 Hz]

Tenor [Evangelist]: Wilfried Jochens; Bass [Christus]: Peter Lika; Soprano: Angela Kazimierczuk; Alto: Alison Browner; Tenor: Markus Schäfer; Bass: Franz-Josef Selig; [Ancilla 1]: Susanne Merle; [Ancilla 2]: Paola Gronau; [Testis 1]: Andrea Mutert; Tenor [Testis 2]: Florian Simson

Opus 111 OPS-20-72/73
Opus 111 OPS-2022/23
Tête à Tête

Apr 16-25, 1992

2-CD / TT: 132:25
2-CD / TT: 132:25
2-CD / TT: 132:25

Recorded at Deutschlandfunk Studio, Cologne, Germany.
World premiere recording of the arragement made in 1841 for St. Thomas's Church, Leipzig by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy.
See: Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 - conducted by Christoph Spering
Buy this album at |
Opus 111 2-CD (1993): Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de
Opus 111 2-CD (2000): Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de
Tete-a-Tete 2-CD (2002): Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de

A new Matthew Passion?

Harry Steinman wrote (August 29, 2000):
Was browsing at HB Direct (about the best classical site I've run across www.hbdirect.com) when I saw that there was this new release, a version of the Matthew Passion by Spering/Das Neue Orchester & Chorus Musicus. 1841 version, arranged by Mendelssohn. What's the deal on this, if anybody knows? What happens when somebody like Mendelssohn arranges JSB? And who is this ensemble?

Curious in Boston,

Donald Satz wrote (August 29, 2000):
The Spering/Opus 111 St. Matthew Passion can't be very new since I've had it for a few years; it's a reissue, and it should be at a reduced price.

I like the recording very much. It's on 2 CD's and obviously leaves out a significant amount of material. But, I find it an excellent performance by Spering, the singers, and his period instrument orchestra. I have not listened to the set for a couple of years, but I have no memory of Mendelssohn screwing up the essence of Bach (and I don't like Mendelssohn's compositions at all).

Ben Mullins wrote (August 29, 2000):
(To Donald Satz) If memory serves, it's actually Mendelssohn who edited the work for it's "première" in 1829. Here is what Steven Guy said in a post a while ago:

I can vouch for this CD. It is an interesting recreation of this work - complete with fortepiano continuo! Makes me wonder about musicians trying to perform a Karajan - style B Minor Mass (BWV 232) in a hundred years time on authentic/period 20th Century instruments!?

The Mendelssohn St. Matthew is a recording that was on my list for a while, I had actually forgotten about it, thanks for reminding me Harry!

Ben Mullins wrote (August 29, 2000):
Here's a review from Gramophone magazine:

Bach (arr. Mendelssohn). St Matthew Passion. Angela Kazimierczuk (sop); Alison Browner (contr); Wilfried Jochens, Markus Schäfer (tens); Peter Lika, Franz-Josef Selig (basses); Chorus Musicus; Das Neue Orchestra / Christoph Spering.
Opus 111 (Full price) (CD) OPS30-72/3 (two discs: 132 minutes: DDD). Text and translation included. Recorded in association with Stiftung Kunst and Kultur des Landes.

When Mendelssohn conducted Bach's St Matthew Passion at the Berlin Singakademie in March 1829 the public was greatly impressed by the event. One of those present was the philosopher Hegel who remarked upon Bach's "grand, truly Protestant, robust and, so to speak, erudite genius which we have only recently learned again to appreciate at its full value". Mendelssohn's experiment was so successful that 12 years later, in 1841, he performed what Bach's descendants called "the great Passion" once more, this time in the church where it had first been heard over a century earlier, St Thomas's, Leipzig. It is the content of this later performance which is followed here and we can be fairly certain of that since Mendelssohn's score choral and orchestral parts are preserved in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. For the St Thomas's performance Mendelssohn made several important changes from the earlier one in Berlin. No less than four arias were reinstated, as well as one of the many chorales, but by far the most striking change of heart concerned the narrative element of the Passion. In Berlin, Mendelssohn accompanied the recitativo semplice on the piano but for Leipzig the piano was abandoned in favour of two cellos and a double bass. There are many other expedient changes and adjustments, too, notable among which is the use of clarinets instead of the two larger members of the oboe family; but for the listener of today Mendelssohn's treatment, indeed concept of recitative in the Passion is likely to be the single most arresting feature.

The director of this new recording, Christoph Spering, has done a pretty convincing job in bringing Mendelssohn's concept to life once more; and he is well served by an excellent solo team. Wilfried Jochens is a fine Evangelis, warmly supported by his lower string accompaniment. There are strong contributions, too, from Peter Lika, Angela Kazimierozuk and Alison Browner. But she, I am sure, will not have been best pleased to have her great, lyrical aria "Erbarme dich" wrested from her and given to the soprano. But that is what Mendelssohn did and so it is done here, trans-positions and all. Spering has thought about the instruments, too, and for this recording uses period stringed instruments strung with gut but using types of bow in current use at the time.

There is of course much, much more to say about these fascinating issues but the booklet contains a quite detailed and readable essay outlining the background and approach. Meanwhile, I urge readers interested in the evolution of styles and ideas and, of course all Bach enthusiasts, to acquire these discs and form their own opinions. The solo singing alone merits praise but there are other features, too, which are skilfully realized. I very much doubt that the release will change the current direction of baroque performance practice! NA

Matthew Westphal wrote (August 30, 2000):
Thanks to Ben for posting the Gramophone review. Here's a link to my review at Amazon.com: Amazon.com

Harry J. Steinman wrote (August 31, 2000):
Add my thanks to all for the feedback. And I see it's not at all a new recording. I wonder why HB Direct referred to it as a 'debut recording'...maybe it's new with them.

Well, I have a few versions including Gardiner, Klemperer, whoever-it-is on Brilliant Classics (a very nice version, by the way), and somebody else, too...I think I'm mostly interested in what happens to Bach when Mendelssohn gets involved, but I'm probably gonna wait a bit. So much Bach; so little time...

Well, enjoy the holiday weekend, those of you in the US...and those elsewhere, your Bach will make everyday a holiday!

 

The Mendelssohn 1841 SMP

Teri Noel Towe wrote (August 31, 2000):
< Was browsing at HB Direct (about the best classical site I've run across www.hbdirect.com) when I saw that there was this new release, a version of the Matthew Passion by Spering/Das Neue Orchester & Chorus Musicus. 1841 version, arranged by Mendelssohn. What's the deal on this, if anybody knows? What happens when somebody like Mendelssohn arranges JSB? And who is this ensemble? >
This is a WONDERFUL recording. It was made in the early 1990s, and it is a meticulous recreation of a performance that Mendelssohn-Bartholdy gave in Leipzig in 1841. The musical text is not as severely abridged as it was 12 years before in Berlin in 1829, when Mendelssohn-Bartholdy revived the work for the first time since Bach's own performances.

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the arrangement is the accompaniment of the recitatives - 2 cellos, in double stops.

By the way, the earliest documented performance, after Bach's own, of a complete and uncut SMP was the performance conducted by Felix Mottl in Karlsruhe in 1907.

 

The last sentence of the Gramophone Review of the Bach-Mendelssohn BWV 244

Teri Noel Towe wrote (August 31, 2000):
< Quote from NA's "Gramophone" review of the Spering recording of the 1841 version of the Bach-Mendelssohn BWV 244:
I very much doubt that the release will change the current direction of baroque performance practice! NA >
True, and there is no reason why it should.

But the recording provides invaluable insight into how the pioneers in the Bach Revival understood, performed, and heard this music.

I'd love to hear and HIP performance of the D Minor Clavier Concerto with the Brahms cadenzas, for which the autographs are in the Library of Congress.

Thanks again for posting this review.

 

Spering's SMP

Eric Bergerud wrote (January 22, 2005):
Just listened to Christoph Spering's performance of the SMP as he believes it was staged by Mendelssohn in 1841. I like it a lot. The forces are larger than a standard period ensemble today, but because Spering employs the instruments and style Mendelssohn would have known, the impact is much closer to say Gardiner than Karajan or Lenny (English aside). The big choruses are grand though: I can imagine that it had quite an impact. Definite thumbs up.

Doug Cowling wrote (January 22, 2005):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< Just listened to Christoph Spering's performance of the SMP as he believes it was staged by Mendelssohn in 1841. I like it a lot. >
Mendelssohn's aranrgement of the SMP is like Mozart's arrangement of Messiah: if you hear them done well by period performers, they become "new" works in themselves. Even Beecham's Messiah works -- with cymbals in the Hallelujah Chorus! -- when it is given such a superlative performance. John Vickers singing "Every Valley" is like Wagner but always musical (if misguided).

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (January 22, 2005):
[To Eric Bergerud] How do you think it compares to Fasolis's recording of the same work in the same version?

Eric Bergerud wrote (January 23, 2005):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] Neither Archiv or Amazon presently carries the Fasolis' version - made the choice easy. Spering's performance is also available in its original version for a few dollars more. I kinda wish I would have bought it because the Naive version is one of these "download the notes and libretto" products. (I didn't know that of course.) And, natch, the web page no longer supports the download. Fortunately there were some good info on the performance on Amazon. But the original performance is still available and would, presumably, have complete notation and libretto etc. That said, the Spering performance is top drawer and very nicely engineered. And it is different. And there's a used one without notes on Amazon for $13 - a Norwegian special.

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 23, 2005):
[To Eric Bergerud] The Fasolis SMP is available from amazon.de: Amazon.de
Other Bach's vocal works by Fasolis are also available from the same source.

Regarding SMP in Mendelssohn's version, I prefer Fasolis for the sheer drama, the energy, the multi-coloured and excellent playing (all three are usual characteristics of Bach renditions by Fasolis), (mostly) better soloists and other factors. Spering's is somewhat pale in comparison.

The original (and expansive) Spering SMP is also there: Amazon.de

BTW, I do not understand the complaints about short liner notes. Why do you need the text when you have it available online at the BCW - the original German text as well as translations to many languages? (-:

Eric Bergerud wrote (January 23, 2005):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< BTW, I do not understand the complaints about short liner notes. Why do you need the text when you have it available online at the BCW - the original German text as well as translations to many languages? (-: >
Unless it's a real deal I don't mess with German Amazon - my wife thinks I have quite enough CDs as it is and I bet there are folks out there that I thinshe's right. Certainly you're right about not needing the libretto or info about the SMP itself. Not only do I have the web site but there are splendid notes with my Harnoncourt version - ditto with Bernstein's (although aimed at different analysis). What I was interested in was more information from someone in Spering's corner on the 1841 performance and how Spering approached it. I like the performance, but with Bach choral music I admit to being pretty easy: find it hard to knock world class players performing the greatest music ever composed.

BTW: ordering Fasolis from Germany would have gone about $40 with shipping. Spering was $13. Minnesota Norwegians have a long and proud reputation for being tight with money and it's hard for me to be untrue to my heritage. On this issue my wife does agree.

Yoël l. Arbeitman wrote (January 23, 2005):
Aryeh Oron wrote: < The Fasolis SMP is available from amazon.de: Amazon.de
Other Bach's vocal works by Fasolis are also available from the same source. >
It appears to me that there is one copy only from a German Amazon seller and that is all. I presume that "alle Angebote" equals our "New and Used From" on USA and UK Amazon. There does not appear to be an offer from Amazon.de itself. With the worthless USA dollar, I don't order from Europe these days.

< The original (and expansive) Spering SMP is also there: Amazon.de >
Happily this bargain-hungry non-Norwegian bought the original at broinc some many years ago for a pittance. A pittance is always my favorite price although I do occasionally indulge

< BTW, I do not understand the complaints about short liner notes. Why do you need the text when you have it available online at the BCW - >the original German text as well as translations to many languages? (-: >
Oh, Aryeh, I abhor textless CDs. I so do appreciate that the Archipel Scherchen cantatas of which I have just listened to the 2nd two CDs of the 4 issued (got the other two some time ago) have German texts. I don't want to be tethered to a computer when I listen to any vocal work and I don't want a house full of xeroxes. Of course one most deeply appreciates all your web work for which our non-God or non-Goddess will bless you in some non-future life and for which we all bless you in the here and now.

BTW, God bless broinc where the two last Scherchen Archipel cantata CDs are available for $4.00 a shot. There are wonderful and remain amongst my favorite anythings.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (January 25, 2005):
[To Eric Bergerud] I would question about the Fasolis not being available at Amazon. That actually is the opposite way around. I have yet to see the Spering available there. They don't even have the sound samples for it anymore, whereas they do of the Fasolis.

As to the Archiv site, I am not surorised. They don't carry a lot of the recordings that I would like, either (such as the Thomanrchor Leipzig recordings led by Georg Biller or the "Bach: Made in Germany" series).

 

Spering's SMP

Peter Bloemendaal wrote (February 3, 2005):
SAINT MATTHEW PASSION BWV 244 - JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH 1685-1750)

Conductor: Christoph Spering
Choir: Chorus Musicus
Boys choir: none
Orchestra: Das Neue Orchester
Concert master: Ingeborg Scheerer
Clarinets: Diego Montes, Guy van Waas
Organ: Ulrich Böhme

Recording: DDD - OPS 30-72/73

Matthäus Passion in der Einrichtung für die Thomaskirche zu Leipzig 1841 von Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy

Location and Time: Deutschlandfunk Studio, Köln; 16-25 april 1992

Soloists:
Evangelist, tenor - Wilfried Jochens
Christus, bas - Peter Lika
soprano arias - Angela Kazimierczuk
alto arias - Alison Browner
bass arias - Franz-Josef Selig
tenor arias - Markus Schäfer
Judas / Petrus - Franz-Josef Selig
High Priest - Franz-Josef Selig
Pontius Pilate - Franz-Josef Selig
Maid I,II - Susanne Merle, Paola Gronau
Pilate's wife - Angela Kazimierczuk
Priest I,II - Franz-Josef Selig, Markus Schäfer
Testis I,II - Andrea Mutert, Florian Simson
Organ: Ulrich Böhme

Total playing time: 2 hrs 12' 25"
Duration Opening chorus: 7' 46"
Duration final chorus: 6' 07"
Duration chorale "Herzliebster Jesus": 1' 06"
Duration turba "Sein Blut": 0' 37"
Last Supper scene ("Er antwortete und sprach"): 3' 26"
Duration soprano aria "Aus Liebe": 4' 13"
Duration alto aria "Erbarme Dich": 6' 31" (hier: sopraan aria)
Duration tenor aria "Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen": 6' 37"
Duration bass aria "Mache dich mein Herze rein": 3' 00"

Characteristics:

Highly interesting recording in the arrangement made in 1841 for St. Thomas's Church, Leipzig, where it was first played by Bach himself in 1729. One hundred years later, on March 11, 1829, the passion was rescued from oblivion by the young Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, who had got the manuscript from his grandmother as a Christmas gift in 1823.

For his 1829 performance in Berlin, Mendelssohn discarded two-thirds of the arias, which put the emphasis on the remaining accompagnati. Besides he made a lot of alterations.

In this recording Christoph Spering makes use of the second Mendelssohn version from 1841. Both manuscripts, which are kept in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, could be consulted by Spering. Four arias, omitted in 1829, were reinstated by Mendelssohn in '41, "Blute Nur", "Gebt mir meinen Jesum wieder", "Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben" and "Mache dich mein Herze rein". Also the chorale "Wer hat dich so geschlagen" was rehabilitated.

Instrumentation:

Mendelssohn did not observe Bach's double chorus instrumentation. He allotted two of the reinserted arias to the first instead of the second orchestra. Likewise the violin solos in "Erbarme dich" and "Gebt mir meinen Jesu wieder" were given to the concert master, the leader of the first orchestra. Men­delssohn had the secco recitatives accompanied by two cellos doubling each other and a double bass. The lower pitched oboe d'amore and oboe da caccia were no longer available at the time and replaced by clarinets, which may sound rather odd to us. The organ only accompanied the chorales ad some of the arias.

Interpretation:

As a romanticist Mendelssohn made arrangements to emphasize human emotions through dynamic means. In Bach's day these emotions were always expressed by conventional musical figures, the affeti, the use of which was familiar at the time but had been forgotten a century later. Therefore Mendelssohn added a great number of dynamic markings to the score, not so much with the chorales but in particular with the great choruses, the turbae, , the recitatives and to a certain extent to the arias. But especially the Evangelist and Christ got many indications to state their emotions with operatic expressiveness.

Mendelssohn disregarded the use of a boys choir. No matter how angelic their bright innocent voices, he would insist on the superior dramatic force of four molto espressivo adult soloists. In several arias the da capos were left out, but the most drastic change was made to the central soprano aria "Aus Liebe", which lost its focal position in favour of the alto aria "Erbarme dich". Unfortunately for the alto soloist it was taken away from her after being transposed to the higher soprano register.

Cuts in Bach's original score for the 1841 performance:

Wie wohl mein Herz in Tränen schwi - recitative soprano
Ich will dir mein Herze schenken - aria soprano
Ich will hier bei dir stehen - chorale
Der Heiland fällt vor seinem Vater nieder - recitative bass
Gerne will ich mich bequemen - aria bass
Mir hat die Welt trüglich gericht - chorale
Mein Jesu schweigt zu falschen Lügen stille -recitative tenor
Geduld, Geduld - aria tenor
Bin ich gleich von dir gewichen - chorale
Befiehl du deine Wege - chorale
Wie wunderbarlich ist doch diese Strafe - chorale
Können Tränen meiner Wangen - aria alto
Du edles Angesichte (verse 2 of "O Haupt...") - chorale
Ja, freilich will in uns - recitative bass
Komm, süsses Kreuz - aria bass
Sehet, Jesus hat die Hand - aria alto with choir

Mendelssohn's cuts were aimed at enhancing the dramatic force of the work, keeping the action going and the duration limited so as not to wear out the audience.

The Spering recording:

Spering has quite a good team at his disposal, an orchestra and choir of excellent quality, and some fine soloists, of whom I like Markus Schäfer and Franz-Josef Selig

Best, and solo instrumentalists who are well-equipped for their job. The sound of the period instruments is pretty authentic in spite of the unfamiliar clarinets, but the collective interpretation of the passion is a bit hybrid. The solo voices are pretty "flat" compared to what they must have sounded in Mendelssohn's days. It is neither a 19th century highly romanticized performance, nor a heavily melodramatic Mengelbergian tragedy, nor a late twentieth century authentic approach. It is neither flesh nor fish, which makes it fascinating all the same. In an article about Bernstein's SMP (See: Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 - conducted by Leonard Bernstein), I already made some observations about the validity of such a highly abridged version. One thing is certain: it never fails to kindle my desire to listen to a complete performance, preferably live, but thank God for great recordings.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (February 3, 2005):
[To Peter Bloemendaal] Interesting to note that Mendelssohn-Bartholdy did not use the instruments that replaced the Oboe da caccia (namely the modern "Cor anglaise"--English Horn).

 

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 - G.C. Biller | 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]

Christoph Spering: Short Biography | Chorus Musicus Köln | Das Neue Orchester | Recordings of Vocal Works
Individual Recordings:
BWV 244 - C. Spering

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: ıSeptember 22, 2013 ı06:09:59