Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Gottfried August HOMILIUS (1714-1785)
St. Matthew Passion
Ann Monoyios (soprano)
Ulla Groenewold (contralto)
Gerd Tark (Tenor)
Klaus Mertens (Bass)
Hans-Georg Wimmer (Bass)
Christoph Prégardien (Tenor)
Cappella vocale Leverkusen/Christoph Schoener
Akadamie für Alte Musik Berlin/Bernhard Forck
rec: January 1992.
BERLIN CLASSICS BC 1046-2 [131.04]

Gottfried August Homilius, now considered the greatest cantor of Dresden's Kreuzchor, was, for a while a student of Johann Sebastian Bach. A composer of music for the church, and a great organist, he was described, in 1790, as 'one of the greatest and worthiest organists alive.'

While Homilius's name is found on only one score for this passion, stylistic criteria make it almost certain that he wrote this music. This St. Matthew Passion closely resembles Bach's passions - it contains choral movements, recitatives and arias with orchestral accompaniment, and tells the story of the Passion in the same way as was done in churches all over Germany in the 18th century. However, Homilius uses many more short sections with recitative (a total of 89 pieces altogether - most less than one minute long), but his arias are generally much longer than those in Bach's passions and cantatas.

This is an extraordinary recording - the music is beautiful, the soloists and choir are excellent, and Christoph Prégardien is one of the best evangelists for this type of work currently performing. Soprano Ann Monoyios stands out in one of the high points of the work, the aria Gott, wie Wasser ausgeschettet, more than 11 minutes long, which is full of such emotion and beauty that I could listen to for hours.

Rarely have I felt so strongly about a work I have heard for the first time. Part of my emotion comes, perhaps, from the similarity to Bach's work - one might even be tempted to think that Bach was involved in its composition, even though there is no evidence to suggest this. But the beauty of some of the arias, and the similarity in overall style, make it fit in perfectly with Bach's large vocal works.

The extraordinary performances by all the soloists and the excellent recording and performance by the Akadamie für Alte Musik Berlin all make this a must-have recording.

Kirk McElhearn



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