Bach, Orchestra Of The Eighteenth Century - St John's Passion

Wednesday 1st December 1993
Bach, Orchestra Of The Eighteenth Century - St John's Passion

STYLE: Classical
RATING 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
LABEL: Phillips 4349052

Reviewed by John Irvine

Only two of Bach's passion settings have survived: this is the earlier, and the less well known. Hopefully this recording will help rectify that. In no way is the St John Passion inferior to the St Matthew Passion. The notes included in the CD set help explain the significance of St John's Passion as compared with Bach's other works and with the works of his contemporaries. The notes are both concise and precise and are sensible as well as scholarly. This is a slightly unusual recording in that the alto part is in fact sung by a man, ie, a counter tenor (a bloke singing falsetto). The man in question, James Bowman, is the leading counter tenor and is much in demand as a soloist. This recording shows why: Bowman gives a firm and restrained, almost devotional reading of the text. The other soloists, and the choir, are equally superb, a joy to listen to. 'Original' or 'period' instruments are used in this recording, to my mind definitely the best way to experience Bach, since these were the instruments he wrote for, not their modern equivalents. He was well acquainted with the instruments, their tonal characteristics and their capabilities, considerations which modern instruments and their players seem to have difficulty recapturing. This, however, is a superb recording of a masterpiece and well worth investigating.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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