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Bach: John Passion Hybrid SACD - DSD

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Audio CD, Hybrid SACD - DSD, March 26, 2013
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Bach: John Passion + Matthew Passion - Bach's Last Performing Version, c. 1742 + Bach: Mass in B Minor
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

This is the premiere recording of J.S. Bach's John Passion heard for the first time within its original liturgical context. This recording marks the return of Dunedin Consort's star-studded cast including, Nicholas Mulroy, Matthew Brook, Robert Davies, Joanne Lunn and Clare Wilkinson. Director John Butt has given listeners an interpretation that will provide a refreshing outlook on this masterpiece and will show the John Passion in a completely new light. The Consort recreate the context of a passion performance during Bach's time at Leipzig; the University of Glasgow Chapel Choir (directed by James Grossmith) and a congregational choir of amateur singers perform motets and chorales from an original Leipzig hymn book and John Butt takes centre stage to perform organ preludes on the Collins organ at Greyfriar's Kirk in Edinburgh, where the recording took place.

Review

Gramophone Magazine Recording of the Month: Bach's St John Passion gains more from the small-ensemble approach, I think, than its big sister, the St Matthew. Its emotional intimacy and urgency are better suited to the agility and immediacy a one-to-a-part performance brings, and the result can be a deeply compelling human drama. We have had several decent 'chamber' St Johns in recent years including recordings from the Ricercar Consort (7/11), Cantus Cölln and Portland Baroque (both 3/12) but this new one from John Butt and the Dunedin Consort really struck home for me by achieving its vital results without extravagant overstatement, overt 'holiness' or self-conscious marking-out of the work's architecture. Indeed, naturalness and emotional honesty are what emerge from this tight-knit and perfectly paced ensemble Passion, in which Bach's complex succession of recitatives, arias, choruses and chorales has surely seldom sounded so convincingly of a piece. --Gramophone Magazine, Lindsay Kemp, March 2013

John Butt freely admits that his new recording of the St John Passion is a reconstruction of a performance that never took place. It's a leap of imaginative faith; an ideal. Yet how illuminating such leaps can prove. Those outside the Lutheran tradition so often come to the Bach Passions as it they were some sort of altarpiece, deprived of their sacred surroundings and hung in a gallery to be revered as a great work of art. By putting the St John Passion in a liturgical context the first time this has been done on disc Butt reminds us that it was part of a living act of worship, and just how potently private and public devotion intersect: emotive solo arias interact within the bigger picture of gravelly unaccompanied congregational signing, chant and organ chorale preluding. In a concert performance the final chorale usually dissolves into silence before applause. Here it seamlessly surrenders to a tender funeral motet by Jacob Handl Gallus which, far from dissipating the moment, intensifies it and bridges the transition from Bach into the closing solemnities. Similarly, at the start the maelstrom of the opening chorus emerges out of a Buxtehude organ prelude. It's thrilling. And for those with stamina seeking added 'authenticity', it's possible to download from the Linn Records website a lengthy sermon such as anchored the Vespers service. --BBC Music Magazine, March 2013

Not only is this an exceptionally fine small-scale performance and recording with scholarly but readable notes, it attempts to bring us closer to the way in which the original listeners experienced the passion on Good Friday not a particular Good Friday because it's a composite of the various revisions, though as close as possible to the projected 1739 version but with material from the Lutheran Vespers service as celebrated at Leipzig in the early 18th century.

--MusicWeb International, Brian Wilson - Download News April 2013

"For the St. John Passion on record: The historically most informed John Butt with the Dunedin Consort (on Linn), set in its liturgical context of 18th century Leipzig Good Friday service (review here) using an amalgamate of the 1724 and 1749 versions of the St.John Passion is particularly intriguing. Beyond the special touch of the setting, it's a lively and fresh take, an infectious, tight performance which has grown on me with every hearing." --Jens F. Laurson, Forbes, April 2015


Product Details

  • Conductor: John Butt
  • Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Audio CD (March 26, 2013)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Hybrid SACD - DSD
  • Label: Linn
  • ASIN: B009G7WUOM
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #164,929 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By R. Gerard on March 29, 2013
Format: Audio CD
The present recording is one in a new but growing tradition of reconstructing the liturgy, attempting to put famous sacred works of various composers in context. Paul McCreesh comes to mind as the man who initiated, or at least popularized, this practice: His "Mass for Christmas Morning" put some works of Bach's predecessor Michael Praetorius in the proper context of the church service, complete with congregations singing along with still-familiar chorales, biblical readings, and concerted performances of the mass. His "Epiphany Mass" recording did the same with Bach's organ works, masses, and two cantatas, and his "Venetian Christmas" contextualized the works of Giovanni Gabrieli."

Today we tend to think of Bach's cantatas, passions, and organ works as stand-alone pieces, but nothing could be farther from the intentions of Bach and his contemporaries. We have here a reconstruction of nearly all of what the citizens of Leipzig in the 1720s could expect when stepping into the church of St. Thomas when Bach served as cantor. Of course, we don't know exactly which organ preludes, chorales, and hymns were sung (except for the Ecce Quomodo Moritur Justus motet included here, which we know Bach performed along with his passions), but John Butt selects those which fit the somber character of the church service and places them where they would have been appropriate. This gives us a new idea of the "shape" of the St. John Passion so familiar today, that it is rather like listening to the work for the first time.

For example, the record begins not with the usual "Herr, unser Herrscher" (or "O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß" in the 1725 version), but rather with an organ chorale, then a lively chorale sung by the entire congregation.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By brownsfan on April 24, 2013
Format: Audio CD
This recording has enjoyed a fair number of reviews for such a recent release. This is not surprising, because this is a recording that demands a response, and not a tepid response. Why so? This passion is presented with, well, passion. It is not presented as a piece of music, but as it was intended---an act of worship, and yes, orthodox Lutheran worship. One cannot understand fully J.S. Bach or his non-secular music without understanding his deep Lutheran faith. Previous reviewers have revealed their particular biases and so will I. I, like Bach, am an orthodox confessional Lutheran. So for me, this recording does something no other recording has ever done. It has transported me back in time to a Good Friday divine service in Leipzig, cold church, hard benches and all. I have a half dozen other performances of the St. John passion in my library. None of them approach this recording in evoking an emotional response appropriate to the subject matter. Bach of course deeply appreciated the rich, preexisting Lutheran Hymnody, as evidenced by his extensive use of these hymns in his cantatas. Inclusion of several wonderful examples of these hymns in this recording is quite appropriate and well done.

There are a few complaints. The German is not always what it might be. In "Nun Danket Alle Gott" there is one place where the entire choir sings "and" instead of "und" unless my ears deceive me. While the recording quality is excellent as usual with Linn recordings, it may not quite be as satisfying as the previous release of the St. Matthew Passion. But these are small annoyances in comparison to the enormous strengths of this offering. If you are a lover of the St. John Passion, you must give this a try. Most, I think will find it a revelation, though some will not like it at all.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bruce A. Mcdonald on May 16, 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Bach's great ST. JOHN PASSION is getting considerable attention from the recording studios these days. This fine recording attempts to capture what it would have been like in a regular church service for Good Friday in Bach's time. The choir is smaller than what we usually hear, but far better than what we might get in most parish churches today! The singing is superb throughout, and Butt's organ playing on the "extras" (part of the church service) is also splendid. The recording was made in Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh, and the acoustic seems to be just right for this music. Great stuff!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Neaklaus VINE VOICE on March 29, 2013
Format: Audio CD
This new recording from Linn Records of Bach's "John Passion" proves beyond a doubt that this passion work is no less great than the "Matthew Passion" The Dunedin Consort under John Butt once again bring us a wonderful performance of one of Bach's finest works. The Consort needing to do things a little differently this time around bring us not only a performance of the passion, but also works and the spoken portions of the service that might have been heard in 1724. As always the soloists prove themselves quite equal to the tasks at hand. I mention the sermon and some of the organ chorales because you can go to the Linn web site to download them along with other special additions to this recording as well. At every turn I find myself marveling at Bach's genius music writing painting all the scenes with his special musical brush. Highly Recommended. I should also point out that I listened to a downloaded version of this recording, and not the CD set.
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