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John Passion - Dunedin Consort - The Observer


24 March 2013
The Observer
Nicholas Kenyon

When we perform religious music in the concert hall, inevitably we lose a sense of context, both of a church building but also of the surrounding liturgy. This historic and supremely important new recording restores Bach's dramatic Passion to the setting for which it was designed, with prayers, chorales, organ preludes and even (if you download it) a sermon. The result is to contextualise brilliantly Bach's thinking: some aspects will surprise (unaccompanied unison chorale singing), others are maybe questionable (a Gallus motet follows without a pause at the end of the Passion), while others are revelatory (organ preludes before the two parts of the Passion). Enclosed within is a really fine, taut, mainly single-voice account of Bach's music - led by Nicholas Mulroy's powerful Evangelist and Matthew Brook's affecting Christ - which somehow acquires new power for emerging from its spartan surroundings. John Butt's research and direction are an object lesson in musical study brought to compelling life.
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