J S Bach - St Matthew Passion
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Label: Harmonia Mundi
Cat No: HMC90215657
Number of Discs: 2
Release Date: 10th March 2014
Staats- und Domchor Berlin
Akademie fur Alte Musik Berlin
'St Matthew Passion' has haunted René Jacobs since childhood: first as a boy soprano in Ghent, then as a countertenor. Now as conductor he uses the layout of the Good Friday Vesper service from J S Bach's time, with choirs front and back, rather than side-by-side. He also gives us extra soloists to complete the bi-choral effect.
For Bach, the two halves were 28 metres apart. At that distance, coordination difficulties begin to appear between the speed of light, and the speed of sound, and we cannot determine how Bach dealt with this. However, harmonia mundi's engineers have solved the problem, on SACD [released 2013] and now on 2 CDs, giving an impression of what Bach intended for St Thomas’ Church in Leipzig.
As ever, harmonia mundi's production values are such that we are given several essays on the concept of the layout in Bach's time, reflections on the new recording by René Jacobs, full texts and biographies in a 176 page booklet, with sumptuous packaging.
This is, somewhat surprisingly, René Jacobs' first recording of 'St Matthew'.
Album of the Week: Sunday Times 15th Dec 2013
"this is essential listening, not only for Jacobs’s spatial innovations, but for Werner Güra’s gripping Evangelist and Johannes Weisser’s youthful, unsanctimonious Christ.” - Hugh Canning
“Rene Jacobs has never been shy of a new hunch and taking it as far as (and sometime beyond) what is either reasonable or defining…This is a Passion performance with admirable scenes, often impressively coherent… very good.” - Gramophone
"the mix of drama and meditation is breathtakingly sustained and the choral singing astonishing in its beauty. Werner Güra is the impassioned Evangelist, Johannes Weisser the noble, charismatic Jesus. The classy lineup for the arias includes Bernarda Fink, Topi Lehtipuu and Konstantin Wolff, all at their absolute best.” - Tim Ashley, The Guardian
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