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JS Bach Matthew Passion - Dunedin Consort - BBC Radio 3 'Record Review'

AM: Why that relatively recent recording Hannah?
HF: For me it’s the intimacy of the recording, you’re so drawn in, it’s very familiar. This is how it goes, we know how it goes, but then it’s like an old master that you know so well and it’s been restored and the colours are just brighter than you imagined before.
AM: The voices, we’ve got to mention that because it startling isn’t it when you’re not ready for it. You hear that familiar instrumental opening and then just eight voices.
HF: Yes, and it’s not that one-to-a-part performances are rare, but here they become familiar and they reveal themselves in the re-telling of the account. You hear characters and they share our emotions, our reactions, our horror as observers, you start to really identify them. And the fact that you can hear each one of them so clearly in that dialogue I think is outstanding.
AM: And I thought when they got to the chorale and that starts coming in over the top I thought “hang on a minute, they haven’t got enough voices for this”.
HF: Yes, there are two extra, so ten singers in total. Four in each choir and then two extra ripieno sopranos for those moments.
AM: Those little pauses, the dramatic ones with the words, when they’re singing “look”, “at whom”, “how, “where”, like that – it’s a little startling to begin with.
HF: It is, yes. It’s that kind of halting moment, I know it’s too much for some people but I think we’ve reached the point now that it’s good to be challenged in this way. I don’t think we could have had this recording if we hadn’t had all the others that went before it. And actually the inner momentum that they’ve achieved and actually the way that the other voices continue is clever stuff and it’s the way that they put that together, there’s room for that to happen and yet then you’re carried on to the next question.
AM: It’s typical John Butt isn’t it really? It’s his scholarship combined with his lively interpretative instincts as well. Good recorded sound.
HF: Great recorded sound. It comes back to my kind of painting theme: it’s like a Caravaggio where you stand in front of it and you complete the picture. This music was written to be heard and it’s the reaction of the listeners as much as a part of it. And as John Butt says it’s on the threshold of what’s emotionally bearable and I think the recording quality really puts you into that.

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BBC Radio 3 'Record Review'
07 September 2019