Related Reviews
MusicWeb International
"I have no hesitation in following suit and placing this at the head of my recommendations..."
more >>
Stereophile
2009 Records To Die For: "...this performance of the Christian Passion story grips you by the ears."
more >>
Choral Journal
"...the soloists sing with beauty and a genuine understanding..."
more >>
Muzyka21
5 Stars
An outstanding review from the Polish publication
more >>
Classical WETA
"The recording quality and sound of this Linn disc is, as usual with this audiophile label, stupendous."
more >>
AudioVideoHD
5 Stars
"Unos timbres de excepcional calidad, brillan en toda la obra..."
more >>
AudioEnz
"How does it sound? Well in one word: Glorious."
more >>
Pizzicato
5 Stars
'Supersonic Award' for the Dunedin's recording
more >>
The Absolute Sound
"beautifully rendered"
more >>
CD Compact
"El resultado sonoro es escalofriante, ni débil ni esquelético, ni pobre, sino perfectamente equilibrado..."
more >>
Toccata
"Die gesamte Interpretation atmet Fröhlichkeit, Spielfreude und höchstes Musiziervergnügen."
more >>
Hi-Fi News
4 Stars
A recording with 'intimacy and immediacy'
more >>
Star Ledger of New Jersey
"fresh, fine-tuned voices, a beautifully textured instrumental sound."
more >>
High Fidelity
4½ Stars
An excellent review from the Polish Audiophile publication
more >>
MusicWeb International
"...this one is very special indeed."
more >>
Opus Musica
"Excelente..."
more >>
Atlanta Audio Society
"...a really memorable and persuasive Matthew Passion..."
more >>
Audiophile Audition
4½ Stars
"...this one is tough to beat."
more >>
Klassik.com
4 Stars
"Sehr gutes Potenzial."
more >>
The Sunday Telegraph
A performance of 'disarming emotional and dramatic immediacy'
more >>
The Guardian
5 Stars
There's no doubt that this one is the pick of this year's crop...tinglingly vivid.
more >>
Financial Times
4 Stars
sheer intimacy of musical and dramatic dialogue
more >>
The Herald
5 Stars
They've done it again...the singing is to die for...
more >>
Kennis & Cultuur
'Deze Deze Matthäus Passion komt uit Edinburgh.....'
more >>
Daily Mail
4 Stars
Nicholas Mulroy is an excellent Evangelist
more >>
De Gelderlander
5 Stars
'Kopers van Bachpassies zitten tegenwoordig met een luxeprobleem...'
more >>
Berlingske
5 Stars
Alligevel skal man lede længe efter en flottere indspilning... Musikerne spiller som en drøm.
more >>
McAlister Matheson Music Newsletter
one of the most dramatically involving and emotionally searing performances of this work to have appeared on disc
more >>
BBC Music Magazine
5 Stars
My new benchmark. Performance ***** / Sound *****
more >>
Prelude
Wonderbaarlijk mooie Mattheuspassie
more >>
Trouw
"Dit is een versie waarin musicology is omgezet in verrassende muzikaliteit."
more >>
BBC Online
From the word go, the Dunedin Consort draws you in.
more >>
Gramophone
Butt's St Matthew is truly original in spheres resonating beyond established parameters. Gramophone Recommended.
more >>
The Scotsman
5 Stars
A highlight of 2008...brilliantly proficient
more >>
Trouw
Verfrissende ontdekkingsreis door Bachs Matthaus Passion is verrassend.
more >>
Classic FM magazine
Disc of the Month! Performances of stunning conviction
more >>
The Observer
5 Stars
The playing and the singing is outstanding. Highly recommended.
more >>
Independent on Sunday
one of the finest available one-voice-per-part Bach performances
more >>
SA-CD.net
5 Stars
Highly recommended indeed
more >>

JS Bach Matthew Passion - Dunedin Consort - classicalsource.com


12 March 2008
classicalsource.com
Graham Rogers

 

This is a captivating reading of Johann Sebastian Bach's great religious choral drama, an account which grows out of - rather than being bound by - an adherence to the performing forces of Bach's time.

Going to the opposite extreme from its recent critically acclaimed and award-winning "Messiah" (which returned to Handel's neglected Original Version), the Dunedin Consort & Players and John Butt present Bach's final performing version of "St Matthew Passion", never before recorded. The scoring isn't radically different ; the most noticeable departures are the use of a harpsichord instead of an organ as the continuo in the second orchestra, and the addition of a second viola da gamba to the continuo line-up for the tenor recitative and aria ‘Mein Jesus schweigt Geduld'.

The starkest contrast to most available versions, however, is the one-to-a-part ‘choir': a total of just eight singers. Following in the footsteps of Joshua Rifkin and others, Butt is convinced that Bach wrote for such minimal forces, and argues convincingly that the diverse choral textures of Bach's exploration of dialogue in "St Matthew Passion" make it particularly well served by the various combinations of solo voices.

Booklet essays are all very well; the proof is in the listening. Just a few numbers are enough to completely bewitch and establish beyond question that Butt's approach has paid off, reaping uniquely rich dividends. By the end, it's almost impossible to imagine it performed any other way - surely the greatest compliment one can pay.

The musicianship of the youthful Dunedin Players is, quite simply, second to none. The total commitment and assured fluency of the playing is infused with an innate stylistic awareness that is entirely unanimous with Bach's music, never contrived. The playing is crisp and buoyant, but - and in this respect it stands out from the ‘period'-instrument crowd - also smooth and immaculately blended. The oboe sound in particular is beautifully fluid.

Butt's direction is masterful - an entirely homogeneous account that stems from a enthusiasm for music to live and breathe in addition to his intellectual understanding of the score. Tempos are generally brisk, but such is the ‘rightness' of Butt's vision that it all flows naturally.

The solo-voice chorus convinces superbly. Far from lacking in weight, the tutti passages and chorales carry a powerful accumulated strength (in Butt's words, "we hear them as individuals constituting a group rather than simply as a crowd"), and the streamlined, opaque texture is ideally suited to the Passion. It is only when the choirs are broken down to their constituent parts that some of the individual voices are found, unfortunately, to be less satisfying.

Nicholas Mulroy is an excellent Evangelist, an idiomatic, gripping and sympathetic narrator and matched by the strong, individual bass of Matthew Brook who portrays Jesus as commanding and vulnerable. Brook is also allotted ‘Mache dich', one of the sweetest and most heart-warming accounts. Most other solos are well-sung (highlights include Annie Gill's eloquent ‘Konnen Tranen' and Clare Wilkinson's simple and direct ‘Erbame dich', with effortless violin obbligato).

The only other currently available recording with solo voices is Paul McCreesh's with Gabrieli forces on Archiv. It has a definite edge in terms of individual voices, most of which are superior to those of the Dunedin Consort and boasting the likes of Deborah York, Magdalena Kozena, Mark Padmore, James Gilchrist and Peter Harvey. McCreesh's individualistic account is equally compelling in its communication of the drama, but ultimately yields to the vitality, freshness and peerless contribution of the Dunedin Players. Butt's harpsichord continuo also adds welcome bite and cleanness to the texture that the sometimes-cloying organ-only versions lack (McCreesh included). The recording is clear, bright and immediate; although the balance takes a little getting used to (the voices initially seem unnaturally close).

A greatly uplifting and musically satisfying experience, this outstanding "St Matthew Passion" from Linn is letdown only by the inconsistency of the solo voices - but this shouldn't put you off: Butt's direction transcends such flaws, offering immeasurable rewards. The booklet includes German text and English translation.
Bookmark and Share


Related Links

Dunedin ConsortDunedin Consort
JS Bach Matthew Passion (Final performing version, c. 1742)JS Bach Matthew Passion (Final performing version, c. 1742)