JS Bach Matthew Passion - Dunedin Consort - The Guardian
Understandably, record companies often time the release of new recordings of the Bach Passions to coincide with Lent, and there's no doubt that this one is the pick of this year's crop. John Butt and his young Dunedin forces follow their much-admired version of Handel's Messiah with an equally startling and involving account of the Matthew Passion. It's minimalist Bach - there's just one singer to a part, with two extras brought in for the chorale at the end of the opening chorus, while the instrumentation follows that of the final performance that Bach is known to have conducted in Leipzig, probably in 1742. The sinewy meshing of vocal and instrumental lines that results is constantly involving. The performance occasionally lacks monumentality, but its flexibility and clarity offer more than enough in compensation. There's no lack of drama in the solo singing either - Nicholas Mulroy's Evangelist is tinglingly vivid, and contralto Clare Wilkinson's account of Erbarme Dich is beautifully coloured. This may be a Matthew Passion without starry names, but it is at least as good as any of the other period-instrument versions available today.