JS Bach Matthew Passion - Dunedin Consort - The Absolute Sound
The formerly controversial albeit now widely adopted practice of performing large-scale Bach with small-scale vocal forces - one singer to a part - was first championed by the American conductor and musicologist Joshua Rifkin in the early 1980s. There's evidence that this was how Bach performed much of his music, and this new recording of the St. Matthew Passion from John Butt and the Scottish-based Dunedin Consort offers both intimacy and grandeur. Performed with just eight singers, the famous opening double chorus possesses both contrapuntal clarity and emotional potency. One can also fully appreciate the genius of the 15 chorales, many of which are subtly varied takes on the same tune. All the soloists have appealing voices, but Nicholas Mulroy, who is far from a dispassionate observer as the Evangelist, and Clare Wilkinson, whose arias are exquisite, deserve special recognition.
Linn's multichannel program, captured at an Edinburgh church, is conservatively executed. Still, there are cues of the room's reverberant nature. The timbres of recorder, viola da gamba, and oboe da caccia are beautifully rendered.