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John Passion - Dunedin Consort - American Record Guide


27 June 2013
American Record Guide
Paul L Althouse

Here, using the 1739 version of the music, Butt and his Scottish forces have reconstructed a possible Leipzig service of Vespers for Good Friday. They do point out that this never happened exactly like this; in fact, the 1739 version may never have been performed at all. Nonetheless, this recording gives a good sense of the context for Bach's music. We begin with chorale preludes (for organ, played by Butt in a halting style) and a congregational chorale, following by Part One of the Passion. Then, more chorale preludes and congregation singing and the sermon! For the homily Butt chose a sermon from a 1720 collection by Erdmann Neumeister, who also wrote librettos for Bach. This sermon is not on the CD, but available free on the web (in German!). Then comes Part Two with similar appendages at the end. Altogether this is a monumental effort, and people interested in Bach's passion as liturgy will be fascinated by what is here.

But what about the music itself? We have very fine soloists, with both Mulroy and Brook doing double duty on the arias and recitatives. This economy of forces, though, goes even further since the choir consists of only eight singers: the four soloists listed above and four ripienists. (And indeed, many think this is the number Bach would have had.) 
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