John Passion - Dunedin Consort - The Times
The fashion for presenting vintage masterworks in speculative reconstructions has long been with us. But the Dunedin Consort's current release must be the first to invite the listener to experience Bach's St John Passion complete with a 40-minute sermon delivered in German.
Admittedly the sermon, from a volume of 1720 by the Lutheran theologian Erdmann Neumeister, exists solely as a free download (there's an English summary online). The CDs proper also feature their own liturgical extras - motets, prayers, organ preludes, all supplied to suggest the framework in which the Passion setting could have been presented in Leipzig.
Even if you skip the sermon, the liturgical experience still offers benefits to heart and mind. Hearing the extras' congregational chorales (warmly delivered by Glasgow University's Chapel Choir), we trace the connections with the Passion's choruses and chorales. The sense of community drama is increased.
The artists themselves bring pleasure. Matthew Brook's Jesus, the Dunedin Consort and their director John Butt attack the music with customary verve. Intimacy, too: the Consort choir numbers eight. The vocal element is something else. Butt's smaller forces help to personalise the drama.