Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

Johann Sebastian BACH
St. Matthew Passion arr. Mendelssohn

Wilfried Jochens (tenor), Peter Lika (bass), Angela Kazimierczuk (soprano), Alison Browner (Alto) Markus Schaefer (tenor) and Franz-Joseph Selig, (bass).
Chorus Musicus and Das Neue Orchester - Christoph Spering
OPUS111 OPS 2022-23 [132.25] recorded digitally in 1993
 Amazon UK  Amazon USA  (now mid-price)


We now have the opportunity to purchase a recording of Mendelssohn's arrangement of J. S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion. This OPUS111 recording is apparently the first time this arrangement has been made available to the collector and it is a strange experience listening to it.

Mendelssohn actually did relatively little to the work itself apart from deleting about a third of it, plus, by rephrasing certain parts particularly the chorales and significantly shortening the Evangelist's texts, he made it much more immediate and strengthened up the plot. To some, this shortening may be something of a bonus as it allows us to hear the significant portions of the work with a must reduced investment in listening time.

Christoph Spering has made a very good attempt on this shortened masterpiece, and has not only taken Mendelssohn's reworking, but has also used contemporaneous numbers of players and singers. He has also used instruments similar to those used at the first version in 1829, and its final re-working in 1841. It was this work which started the renaissance in the appreciation of the choral works of J. S. Bach, the 1829 performance being the first since the death of the composer in 1750. To the specialist collector therefore, this issue is of major importance as it gives the opportunity to hear the recreation of a work which was instrumental in us re-discovering Bach's major choral works.

The soloists are extremely good, particularly the Evangelist of Peter Lika who brings the story closer to our consciousness with admirable support from the others. The chorus and orchestra are similarly expert, and the whole is rounded off with a very lifelike recording quality.

This 1993 re-issue, now released at mid-price should appeal to all collectors who love the St. Matthew Passion. The issue has also very comprehensive notes with multi-lingual translations, together with copious detail on the variations between Bach's original creation, and Mendelssohn's modifications. In spite of the extent of the detail in the documents, there is one serious omission - the location of the recording - there is no information about the location apart from an untitled photograph of the artists at work in a concert, to judge from the dress. The only problem with the photograph is that there is no choir, so it looks as though the photo was taken at another venue - sloppy production work by OPUS111. On my copy, one of the discs was labelled incorrectly - Matthew Passion by Khandoshkin!


John Phillips


John Phillips

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