JS Bach Matthew Passion - Dunedin Consort - AudioEnz

Bach's Mathew Passion or St Matthew Passion has been part of the standard choral performance almost since the day it was first performed. The work is an oratorio, a combination of sung solo and chorus pieces that musically is similar to an opera but without elaborate costumes or movements on the stage.

The current trend in a lot of opera is to release on DVD rather than CD, or to offer both to the public. The stage, costume and theatre of opera lends itself well to a combined audio/visual presentation. But this is not opera it is oratorio, a form we mostly associate with Handel, who popularised it in England, after Bach's death. Oratorio tends to place more emphasis on the sound than the visual spectacle and as a result it lends itself perfectly well to recording and playback on CD or in this case CD/SACD.

This recording by Linn records and the Dunedin Consort lives up to the high standards set earlier by their very successful Messiah release. As is common with many of these older works, the composer wrote several versions, often to suit different performing groups or occasions. The version chosen here is Bach's last performing version, written in 1742.

How does it sound? Well in one word: Glorious. The sound is rich and lead by excellent vocalists. It is sung in German, as it was composed. This is the most authentic language but for someone with only passing knowledge of the work, I wonder if an English language version would have been easier to listen to. As mentioned the sound is rich and well recorded with a gorgeous acoustic. The presence of a SACD layer on the three disc set is welcome for those with SACD playback it enhances the feeling that you are there.

This is an excellent production of one of the great works of choral music. It is presented on three CD's, with a playing time of over two and a half hours. My only suggestion is that it might be worth releasing a one disk "highlights" edition, as is often done for the Messiah. Warmly recommended.

29 September 2008