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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    




Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
St. John Passion

Christine Schäfer, Soprano (Anxcilla & Arias)
Yvi Jänicke, Alto
Adalbert Kraus, Tenor (Evangelist & Arias)
Reinhard Hagen, Bass (Christ & Aria 24)
Berthold Possemeyer, Bass
Timo Schöning, Tenor (Servus)
Gerold Spingler, Baritone (Peter)
Stuttgarter Hymnus-Chorknaben, Eckhard Weyand
Rec: April - May 1990, Lukaskirche, Stuttgart, Germany
HAENSSLER CD 94.009 [118.34]


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Bach’s two passions, as well as his masses, depend greatly on choirs. In their opening movements, the choir rings out with energy and emotion, and it is essential that the tone be established from the beginning. This is indeed the case in this recording, where the choir sounds lively and energetic. Yet, it leans more toward the treble that other choirs often do; this gives it a lighter, more airy sound, which is not disagreeable.

The orchestra has a lush, "classical" sound - this is not a "historically informed performance". At times, the orchestra sounds very big, as in its accompaniment to the aria Ach, mein Sinn, wo willit du endlich hin, a magnificently powerful aria for tenor. The rich string sound underscores the force of the soloists voice very well, adding great drama. In other arias, such as Zerfleiße mein Herze, the orchestra stays in the background just enough to not be intrusive, with subtle continuo strings and flute that accompany Christine Schäfer with perfect balance.

Christine Schäfer is a fine soloist, who has recorded many sacred works by Bach. Her voice here is perhaps not at its best - a certain weakness can be heard in the aria Ich folge dir gleichfalls, but, in general, she adds a great deal of emotion to this work.

Adalbert Kraus is an excellent Evangelist; with a wide range of emotion, from pathos to force. His performance in the arias is also admirable; he has excellent tone and range.

The other soloists are expressive and competent, yet do not stand out. There are strengths and weaknesses, yet, overall, they provide capable performances.

This is a good recording of one of Bach’s finest vocal works. Given its budget price, it is highly recommended, although there are better recordings of this work (such as those by Suzuki, on Bis, and Herreweghe, on Harmonia Mundi). A worthy recording that will not disappoint, though it tends to be lacking in emotion.


Kirk McElhearn


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