JS Bach, Willem Mengelberg - St Matthew Passion

Published Wednesday 1st September 2004
JS Bach, Willem Mengelberg - St Matthew Passion
JS Bach, Willem Mengelberg - St Matthew Passion

STYLE: Choral
RATING 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
LABEL: Naxos Historical 811088082

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

One of the unexpected benefits of entering the digital age has been the surprise re-issues that have been dug out of the archives. Here we have almost three and a half hours of Bach under the baton of the great conductor Willem Mengelberg. The bulk of the recording was taken from a Dutch Radio broadcast of the 1939 Palm Sunday performance of the St Matthew Passion, an annual event over which Mengelberg had presided in Amsterdam since 1899. Disc three is filled out with some idiosyncratic versions of instrumental pieces by Bach. Mark Obert-Thorn, the producer and audio restoration engineer, has done a fine job in bringing all this back to life although the sound quality is still not perfect. But so what? After a few minutes your reviewer did not care as the power and beauty of the music makes a little background noise irrelevant. Given that there are so many recordings of this piece available it is unlikely that this abridgement will be anyone's first choice but it is still worth hearing. Mengelberg upholds the old, monumental, romanticised tradition of Bach performing style and the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam give him their all.

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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