Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount



CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS
Sound Samples & Downloads

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
St John Passion BWV 245 (1724) [120:14]
Ula Graf (soprano), Marga Hoeffgen (alto), Julius Patzak (tenor), Gérard Souzay (baritone), Walter Berry (bass)
Wiener Symphoniker
Wiener Singakademie/Fritz Lehmann
rec. live, 6 April 1955, Grosser Kozerthaussaal, Wien. Sung texts availabel on the Web
MUSIC & ARTS CD-1238 [63:24 + 56:50]

Experience Classicsonline

This is a St. John Passion in the grand old style, with the opening chorus Herr, unser Herrscher coming in at a stately 12:09, where current thinking will usually bring it in a good 3 or 4 minutes shorter. Still, we don’t go in for a live Viennese recording from 1955 with the idea of hearing zippy HIPness. Book-ended with a 12:06 penultimate Ruht wohl this kind of treatment can also carry its own emotional power. The interest here is in having a window into the past, and the strengths in a fine team of soloists whose character-filled tones are for some still representative of a golden age of the vocalist’s art.

Indeed, once having waded through the opening chorus there are plenty of delights. Walter Berry’s bass tones are refined and nasal, and Gérard Souzay is the best of the men: resonant, imposing and expressive. Julius Patzak’s tenor is clear, though a little squeezed here and there, and with some shocking swoops also. Marga Hoeffgen is an alto of the old school, with vibrato set permanently to ‘on’ and ‘wide’, making the words a little harder to follow and the dynamics rather restricted, though I admire her sensitive phrasing. Ula Graf tops the soloists with a rather nervy vocal colouration.

The choir is fairly well disciplined if rather huge-sounding to modern ears – rich in vibrato and certainly given more weight in the balance than the orchestra. They sound nicely restrained in the best of the chorales and sprightly enough in more dramatic passages, such as the interjections of Und hannas. Recitatives are accompanied by an organ, notes sustained. The Vienna Symphoniker sounds fine enough if a little recessed in the audio picture. They give the impression of being a little lacklustre and not greatly inspired, though this may be a side-effect of the balance, making them sound more as if they are in an opera pit rather than a full stage presence. The ‘live’ aspect of the recording is represented with some nice bumps, clatters and coughs.

The recording isn’t announced as mono, though it most assuredly is. The sound restoration has been done by Albert Frantz using an Algorithmics Audio Repair Processor, and a very good job has been done with what sounds like some rather dodgy material. I suspect a few dropouts have been patched, speed changes between tape recorders, and perhaps the balance worked on so that some of the solo voices don’t flood the entire sonic picture. There is virtually no tape hiss, but while I would have appreciated a little more treble neither is the sound too squashed. Period technology always means some instruments come off better than others, and the usual leathery oboes are par for the course, though most of what can be heard is good enough, and the ultimate result is actually fairly clean and certainly worth the effort.

By way of orientation, I’ve been having a listen to the 1954 recording with the Gewandhausorchester with Günther Ramin on the Berlin Classics label. It shows both familial similarities with this Music & Arts release as well as a few striking differences. Slow tempi bring the whole thing in over 2 hours and 10 minutes and yes, that opening chorus is a good and hefty 11:49. Harpsichord added to the recitatives adds impact and emphasis to the drama, and there is a good deal more contrast in the ‘acting’ from the soloists. Children’s voices in the choir give it some rough edges, and the orchestra is, if anything, more muddy and distant than in Vienna and with a sheet of tape hiss to hide under as well, so as ever it’s a case of swings and roundabouts with these historic recordings.

By all accounts Fritz Lehmann was a fine conductor, and this would have been one of his last recordings as he died while conducting a performance of the St. Matthew Passion less than a year after this St John Passion. Music & Arts also has his St Matthew Passion with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and other stars on CD-1091, and his DG Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem is a classic (see review). The booklet for this release has informative texts, though the sung text is only represented by an internet address. For all its dated feel, this recording does have a sense of narrative form and a good deal of historic interest, but it will ultimately be one for specialist collectors.

Dominy Clements







































































































Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.