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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
St Matthew Passion

Christoph Prégardien (tenor), Max van Egmond (bass), Rene Jacobs (alto), Marcus Schafer (tenor), Klaus Mertens (bass), David Cordier (alto), John Elwes (tenor), Peter Lika (bass)
Tolzer Knabenchoir, La Petite Bande/Gustav Leonhardt
Recorded Doopsgezinde Kerke, Haarlem 1989 DDD
HARMONIA MUNDI RD77848 [3CDs: 74:40 + 51:10 + 46:32]

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
St John Passion BWV 245
Christoph Prégardien (tenor), Harry Van Der Kamp (bass), Barbara Schlick (soprano), René Jacobs (alto), Nico van der Meel (tenor), Max van Egmond (bass)
Choir and Orchestra of La Petite Bande/Sigiswald Kuijken
rec. Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente, Feb, April 1987 ADD
DEUTSCHE HARMONIA MUNDI GD77041 [59:30 + 62:49]

 


Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
St Matthew Passion

Disc 1
Kommt ihr Tochter, helft mir klagen [8.29]
Da Jesus diese Rede vollandet hatte [0:23]
Herzliebster Jesu, was hast due verbrochen Hohenpriester [3:04]
Ja nicht auf das Fest
Da nun Jesus war zu Bethanien
Wozu dienet dieser Unrat
Da das Jesus merkete

Du lieber Heilland du [1:00]
Buss und Reu [4:55]
Da ging hin der Zwolfen einer [0:39]
Blute nur, du liebes Herz [4:49]
Aber am ersten Tage der sussen Brot [2:23]
Wo willst du, dass wir dir bereiten
Ar sprach: Gehet hin in die Stadt
Und sie wurden sehr betrubt
Herr, bin ichs

Ich bins, ich sollte bussen [0:56]
Er antworte und sprach [3:07]
Wielwohl mein Herz in Tranen scwimmt [1:11]
Ich will dir mein Herze schenken [3:46]
Und da sie den Lobgesang gesprochen hatten [1:10]
Erkenne mich, mein Huter [1:03]
Petrus aber antwortete und sprach zu ihm [1:04]
Ich will hier bei dir stehen [1:04]
Da kam Jesus mit ihnen zu einem Hofe [1:46]
O Schmerz! hier zittert das gequalte Herz [2:15]
Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen [5:59}
Und ging him ein wenig [0:42]
Der Heiland fallt vor seinem Vater nieder [0:58]
Gerne will ich mich bequemen [4:51]
Und er kam zu seinem Jungern [1:12]
Was mein Gott will, das gscheh allzeit [1:03]
Und er kam und fand sie aber schlafend [2:28]
So ist mein Jesus nun gefangen [4:30]
Sind Blitze, sind Donner in Wolken verschwunden [4:30]
Und siehe, einer aus demen [2:15]
O Mensch, bewein dein Sunde gross [6:22]
Disc 2
Aach, nun ist mein Jesus hin [4:17]
Die aber Jesum gegriffen hatten [1:06]
Mir hat die Welt truglich gericht [0:42]
Und wiewohl viel falsche Zeugen herzutraten [1:19]
Mein Jesus schweigt zu falschen Lugen stille [0:53]
Geduld [3:21]
Und der Hohepriester antwortete und sprach zu ihm [2:15]
Er ist des Todes schuldig
Da spieteten sie aus
Weissage uns, Christe

Wer hat dich so geschlagen [0:55]
Petrus aber sass draussen im Palast [2:26]
Wahrlich, du bist auch einer von denem
Da hub er an, sich zu verfluchen

Erbarme dich [6:43]
Bin ich gleich von dir gewichen [1:08]
Des Morgens aber hielten alle Hohepriester [2:48]
Was gehet uns das an
Und er warf die Silberlinge in der Tempel

Gebt mir meinen Jesum wider [2:51]
Sie hielten aber einen Rat [2:13]
Befiiehl du deine Wege [1:05]
Auf das Fest aber hatte der Landpfleger Gewohnheit [2:28]
Lass ihn kreuzigen

Wie wunderbarlich ist doch diese Strafe [0:51]
Der Landpflegersagte [0:15]
Er hat uns allen wohlgetan [1:03]
Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben [4:35]
Sie schrieen aber noch mehr [2:03]
Lass ihn kreuzigen
Da aber Pilatus sahe
Sein Blut komme uber uns
Da gab er ihnen Barrabam los

Erbarm es Gott [0:51]
Konnen Tranen meiner Wangen [6:03]
Disc 3
Da nahmen die Kriegsknichte [1:11]
Gegrusset seist du, Judenkonig
Und speieten ihn an

O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden [2:16]
Und da sie ihn verspottet hatten [0:54]
Ja freilich will in uns das Fleisch und Blot [0:42]
Komm, susses Kreuz, so will ich sagen [5:45]
Und da die an die Statte kamen [3:41}
Der du den Tempei Gottes (the rest of this I can't read)
Desgleichen auch die Hohen priester
Andern hat er geholfen
Desgleichen schmathetan ihn auch die Morder

Ach Golgatha [1:36]
Sehet, Jesus hat die Hand [3:34]
Und von der sechsten Stunde an [2:28]
Der rufet dem Elias
Und bald lief einer unter ihnen
Halt! lass sehen
Aber Jesus scriee abermal

Wenn ich einmal soll scheiden [1:26]
Und siehe da, der Vorhang im Tempei zerriss [2:43]
Wahrlich, dieser ist Gottes Sohn gewesen
Und es waren viel Weiber da

Am Abend, da es kuhle war [2:05]
Mache dich, mein Herze, rein [6:15]
Und Joseph nahm den Leib [2:50]
Herr, wir haben gedacht
Pilatus sprach zi ihnen

Nun ist der Ruh gebracht [2:08]
Wir setzen uns mit Tranen nieder [6:59]
Christoph Prégardien (tenor), Max van Egmond (bass), Rene Jacobs (alto), Marcus Schafer (tenor), Klaus Mertens (bass), David Cordier (alto), John Elwes (tenor), Peter Lika (bass)
Tolzer Knabenchoir, La Petite Bande/Gustav Leonhardt
Recorded Doopsgezinde Kerke, Haarlem 1989 DDD
HARMONIA MUNDI RD77848 [3CDs: 74:40 + 51:10 + 46:32]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

St John Passion BWV 245
Disc 1
O Lord, Our Sovereign [10:41]
Jesus went forth with his disciples [1:09]
Jesus of Nazareth [0:12]
Jesus saith unto them [0:48]
Jesus answered [0:23]
O great boundless love [1:00]
That the saying might be fulfilled [1:12]
Thy will be done [1:04]
Then the band and the captain [0:43]
To set me free [5:34]
And Simon Peter followed [0:15]
I, too, follow Thee [3:57]
That disciple [3:08]
Who hath beaten Thee thus [2:19]
Now Annas had sent him bound [0:18]
Art thou not also one of his disciples [0:28]
He denied it [1:35]
O, my senses [2:47]
Peter, who reflecteth not [1:25]
Christ, who bringeth us salvation [1:24]
Then they led Jesus [0:36]
If he were not a malefactor [1:06]
Then Pilate said unto them [0:11]
It is not lawful for us [0:40]
That the saying might be fulfilled [1:47]
O great King [1:40]
Pilate therefore said unto him [1:26]
Not this man, but Barrabas [0:11]
Now Barrabas was a robber [0:28]
Contemplate, my soul [2:24]
Consider, His bloodstained back [8:30]
Disc 2
And the soldiers plaited [0:18]
Hail, King of the Jews! [0:35]
And they smote him [1:04]
Crucify him, crucify him! [0:53]
Pilate said unto them [0:20]
We have a law [1:16]
When Pilate heard that saying [1:43]
By the way of Thy prison [1:02]
But the Jews cried out [0:04]
If thou let this man go [1:17]
When Pilate therefore heard [0:41]
Away with him [1:00]
Pilate said unto them [0:11]
We have no king [0:10]
Then he delivered him [0:58]
Hasten, ye troubled souls [4:26]
Where they crucified him [1:10]
Write not, The King of the Jews [0:34]
Pilate answered [0:17]
Deep in my heart [1:10]
Then the soldiers [0:32]
Let us not rend it [1:34]
That the scripture might be fulfilled [1:47]
He had a care for everything [1:14]
And from that hour [1:19]
It is finished [6:11]
And he bowed his head and gave up the ghost [0:20]
My dear saviour [5:11]
And behold [0:28]
Melt, my heart [7:16]
The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation [2:03]
O help us, Jesus Christ [1:18]
And after this [1:55]
Rest in peace, you holy bones [9:11]
O Lord, let Thy dear angels [2:15]
Christoph Prégardien (tenor), Harry Van Der Kamp (bass), Barbara Schlick (soprano), René Jacobs (alto), Nico van der Meel (tenor), Max van Egmond (bass)
Choir and Orchestra of La Petite Bande/Sigiswald Kuijken
rec. Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente, Feb, April 1987 ADD
DEUTSCHE HARMONIA MUNDI GD77041 [59:30 + 62:49]

Then in my early teens, this version of the great St Matthew Passion was the first one I possessed. I was therefore delighted to encounter this two-box set of both Bach Passions.

There are many excellent recordings of the Passions with conductors ranging from von Karajan, Klemperer and Richter to Herreweghe, Harnoncourt and Britten. I am uncomfortably aware that Leonhardt’s St Matthew Passion lays itself open to criticism by virtue of its pace and undemonstrative nature. It calls for a particular kind of listener who is after a spiritual approach rather than dramatic sounds. This is undeniably slow – fifteen minutes longer than John Eliot Gardiner’s outstanding and exciting recording on Archiv Produktion. One could question whether the conductor brings sufficient drive to the work. I have heard this version described as dreary and lifeless – referring not only to the tempi but also to the weightiness of the orchestra, which has a tendency to be slightly ponderous and could indeed be lighter. The dynamic range is also rather limited, in keeping with the spirit and original performing conditions of the work and accentuated by the use of boys and men in an all-male singing production. The choir is usually good, but can be a little uneven, while the soloists are excellent, with the one exception: Max van Egmond as Jesus. He comes across as woolly, a little ponderous, and lacking in gravitas and charisma. Take, for example, the recitative shared between the Evangelist and Jesus, where Jesus says "This is my body, take ye and eat" (track 11). It is fairly prettily sung, but without spirit, meaning or punch. René Jacobs is very good, and Prégardien as the Evangelist is lively, sensitive and atmospheric, with a beautiful and clear tone. Using boys really pays off when it comes to the soprano roles, sung by the exceptional Maximilian Kiener and Christian Fliegner, who add gorgeous tone and texture, searing clarity, perfect intonation and a good deal of passion.

Leonhardt gives a deeply felt, reverent and contemplative performance of the St Matthew Passion. It is beautifully played and sung; introspective yet intense, understated yet profound. This is a version completely lacking in flashy, extravagant gestures but it does rather strip the piece down to its so-deep soul.

The St John’s Passion in this set is conducted by Sigiswald Kuijken, yet shares many of the Leonhardt characteristics, also suffering from some similar minor defects. Once again, it is taken at a very measured pace. It does not rush but slowly and effectively builds up the layers of sound. Prégardien as the Evangelist is again full of vitality and vivacity - wonderfully enthusiastic. The choral singing, however, is uneven – the opening chorus, for example, leaves something to be desired, although thankfully the choir seem to get into their stride further on in the work and later produce some fine singing. Max van Egmond once again is disappointing – some of his runs are a little insecure, while Harry van der Kamp makes a lack-lustre Jesus. Kuijken does not follow Leonhardt in sticking exclusively to male soloists; Barbara Schlick sings the soprano role extremely well.

As with the St Matthew Passion, hostile critics would probably call this dull, uninspired, tedious and too weighty. However if one can get into the slightly more conservative, reflective and introverted manner, one will be able to appreciate both performances for their depth and spirituality. As well as some lovely touches of animation, there is superb musicianship to be found here.

Em Marshall



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