JS Bach Matthew Passion - Dunedin Consort - Financial Times

This is a light-footed but by no means lightweight performance of Bach's great Easter celebration. With only eight voices for all solo and choral parts, it stands at the opposite extreme from the massed-choir interpretation beloved of tradition. Jonathan Butt makes sense of his approach not just in his choice and schooling of soloists (including Nicholas Mulroy as Evangelist, Matthew Brook as Jesus and Clare Wilkinson for the alto arias), but also in the sheer intimacy of musical and dramatic dialogue. As Butt comments in a well-argued sleeve-note, "when these voices come together as disciples or those baying for Jesus's blood, we hear them as individuals constituting a group rather than simply as a crowd". In his instrumental scoring Butt echoes Bach's last performances, which included parts for harpsichord and viola da gamba. If your idea of the Matthew Passion combines big sound with the devotional aura of great performances of the past, this is not for you. If, however, you want a fresh- minted, historically informed probing of the Easter narrative, the Dunedin Consort's version is worth investigating.

17 March 2008