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Bach: St Matthew Passion

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Audio CD, June 27, 2000
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Product Details

  • Performer: Eric Greene, Gordon Clinton, Pauline Brockless, Nancy Evans, Wilfred Brown, et al.
  • Conductor: Ralph Vaughan Williams
  • Composer: J.S. Bach
  • Audio CD (June 27, 2000)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Pearl
  • ASIN: B00004R8MD
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #574,802 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By jean couture on May 29, 2002
RECORDINGS of Leith Hill Festival events are rather quite rare today. For that reason alone this album is a revelation. The program on this double cd set is historically meaningful.

I'll quote Kerryn Chan, in an interesting article for Inkpot.com : "The St.Matthew Passion was written to celebrate Good Friday, as the story being told in this work only leads up to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The story teller here is the Evangelist, Saint Matthew, watching scenes from Jesus' life unfold before his eyes like an invisible person, privy to conversations with other biblical/historical characters."

It could be safe to add that this work is undoubtedly the greatest realization of JS Bach (1685-1750), a chapter in the evolution and history of music. Sources of the work are to be found in the Lutheran tradition. It was premiered in 1729 (some studies show that an earlier version of the work possibly took place in 1727). In a captivating article about the work, Bernard D. Sherman noted that "the St.Matthew's complex mix of time frames is part of what places it squarely outside the realm of Baroque opera," keenly indicating that "in the process, the work regularly alternates between different time frames." The work is unique, even among Bach's prolific output, and it surpasses his own St.John Passion in many areas.

Vaughan Williams's rendering of the Passion truly is an interpretation in the factual sense of the word. The fact that the work was sung in English, that a few parts are omitted, and the choice of instrumentation--with a larger-than-average chorus--is subject to debate, should not mar the inherent beauty and amplitude of this account. This performance addresses the work in light of a different perspective. The St.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Richard G on April 4, 2013
It is a real shame that this performance seems to be currently out of print, for this is to my mind one of the greatest performances of the St. Matthew Passion ever recorded. It is a tribute from one great composer to another. Recorded in March, 1958, just months before Vaughn-Williams' death, it is less Baroque oratorio than tragic Romantic music drama. With its chorus of over two hundred, large orchestra and piano continuo it would not at all fit today's criteria of Historically Informed Performance, but then we must remember that Vaughn-Williams was born in 1872, and carried the Late Romantic ethos well into the 20th Century.
He uses expressive techniques that are long out of fashion, like Tempo Rubato, to great effect and tastefully, not in a blatant way like Furtwangler and some of the other late Romantics, to produce a deeply moving and powerful account of Christ's Passion, one I dare say is much closer to the spirit of the Gospels than today's dried and pedantic click-track period instrument recordings. Just listen to the ominous rumble in the low strings and deep bass of the organ at the opening of the chorus "Surely this must have been the Son of God" near the end of this great work. The chorus "Is it I?" at the Last Supper gradually builds up in tempo and volume with the response of each Apostle and is chilling. The chorus "Let Him be crucified" has an almost terrifying quality.
If you are a period instrument purist, then there is little I can say to convince you of the merits of this legendary performance. For those with a more open mind, I say if this recording ever comes back into print, at whatever price, GRAB IT!
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