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Bach: St. John Passion / Gardiner, The English Baroque Soloists

1 rating: 5.0
Classical album by Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Cornelius Hauptmann, Johann Sebastian Bach, John Eliot Gardiner, Lisa Beznosiuk, Michael Chance, Nancy Argenta, Neill Archer, Pavlo Beznosiuk, Richard Earle, The English Baroque Soloists, and The Monteverdi Choir
1 review about Bach: St. John Passion / Gardiner, The English...

The definitive St. John Passion

  • Mar 30, 2003
The choral group that I belong to alternates yearly Good Friday performances of J. S. Bach's St. John and St. Matthew Passions, and this year we're singing the former. Although Bach performed his work with male altos and sopranos, we employ female voices in the chorus, and the Monteverdi choir on this recording splits the difference and uses female sopranos and male altos.

The English Baroque Soloists perform the orchestral accompaniment on period instruments, which allow them to balance their sound very beautifully against the chorus, even though there are more instrumentalists than singers. I believe the reason our music director uses his adult choir rather than his boys' choir on Good Friday is that his orchestra (pick-up musicians) with their modern instruments would tend to dominate the young voices.

So it is a pleasure to hear the more authentic Bach on this Archiv Produktion CD, even though there is no substitute for the experience of actually singing this mighty work. John Eliot Gardiner is able to speed his smaller, more flexible choir through the turbo choruses at tempi that must elicit a wistful sigh from my music director. His handling of the chorales sustains the emotional build-up of the Passion setting, and reinforces the listener's understanding as to why hymns were (and are) such an important part of a Protestant service.

The distinguished English tenor, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, sings the Evangelist in a clear, poignant tenor that is well-suited to this difficult role.

All of this recording's soloists sing their arias with intelligence and grace, but for me the final chorus is the emotional culmination of this Passion: "Rest well, rest well, Beloved, sweetly sleeping. That I may cease from further weeping, and let me too, rest well."

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