Heinrich Schutz, Ars Nova Copenhagen, Paul Hillier - Matthaus Passion

Published Thursday 28th April 2011
Heinrich Schutz, Ars Nova Copenhagen, Paul Hillier - Matthaus Passion
Heinrich Schutz, Ars Nova Copenhagen, Paul Hillier  - Matthaus Passion

STYLE: Choral
RATING 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
LABEL: Dacapo 8226094

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

Your reviewer confesses that he struggled with some of the previous releases in this series. Not because of any lack of ability in the performances, which are uniformly splendid, nor in the quality of presentation, as the sound is as near to perfect as we are likely to hear from any CD and the CD case and notes are a joy to see, but because of the challenge of the style in which Schutz composed. Basically, there are too many words and they are all in German. Thus I almost declined this review copy but am so glad I did not as this is the best yet - or perhaps I am starting to get the point. Once again the bass Jacob Bloch Jespersen reprises his role as Christus and once again Paul Hillier asks a different tenor to sing the part of the Evangelist, so here we hear Julian Podger as Matthew. This is a canny move as we get continuity from the ensemble and the Christ and a different perspective from the Evangelist. Schutz had the intriguing idea of combining different vocal parts for the other "speakers" in this drama and this time I grasped the concept. My German is no better than it was when reviewing the Luke and John Passions in this series (and if Schutz wrote a Mark Passion it has not survived) but somehow it still spoke to me. One does not have to be a linguist to work out that "Mein Gott, mein Gott, warum hast du mich verlassen?" is "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" but the expression, the depths of emotion, that Jespersen brings to these words is awesome. I have never been so moved by recitative as I have on this recording and the choral interludes are stunning. I know that many and probably most of us who enjoy a sung Passion at Eastertide will continue to rotate Bach's settings with Handel's Messiah and the occasional Stainer's Crucifixion but listeners who want to venture further afield or rather deeper back in time may come to love Schutz's Matthew Passion just as much and in Paul Hillier and Ars Nova Copenhagen he has received an absolutely first class presentation.

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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