Notes & Reviews:
Considered to be an expressive and intimate oratorio, the St. John Passion was conceived by Bach both as a work of art and an act of worship in itself. Subtly balancing narration and meditation, it juxtaposes vivid reenactment in the arias with stretches of contemplative exposition in the chorales. Regardless of one's religious views, it captures the listener's attention from beginning to end. Recorded in Königslutter in 2003, this rendition of the work from Soli Deo Gloria features such internationally acclaimed soloists as Mark Padmore, Hanno Müller-Brachmann, Peter Harvey and Bernarda Fink. The booklet includes notes by Sir John Eliot Gardiner as well as the texts in German, English and French.
"Of Bach's two passion settings, it's the later St Matthew one that has historically scooped the lion’s share of performances and general praise. The St John Passion has often been viewed as the cruder older sibling. Those who would agree with that analysis should get hold of these two discs. John Eliot Gardiner argues that Bach himself considered his St John setting, the longest work in his career up to that point, to be supremely important. This recording should leave no-one in any doubt as to the works sheer beauty and power. Few ensembles can come to Bach's St John Passion with quite the degree of performance-based insight that Gardiner and his musicians have done...The result is a little slice of musical heaven. In sound, it's a masterpiece of technical precision and musical beauty. In tone, it perfectly balances the theatrical with the devotional. The English Baroque Soloists and the Monteverdi Choir expertly build and release tension, their phrases shaped to sound natural, instinctive, and emotionally complete... All in all, an interpretation to savour." -BBC
"These performances, taped at the end of an English Baroque Soloists tour in 2006, exude a tremendous sense of common purpose and an un-dogmatic stylistic assurance...Gardiner gets the music to "speak" without ever sounding fussy. In short, he achieves that rare feat of revitalising the familiar." -Financial Times
Classic FM Magazine
Gardiner sets the waves gently but urgently lapping in a perfectly judged opening...Padmore's Evangelist is commanding, tireless and beautifully enunciated...There surely cannot be a better account on record. From first to last Gardiner imparts his love for the work and it comes across. The performers share his view and so do we. The liveness of the recording is palpable.
BBC Music Magazine
To borrow a phrase used more than one by Gardiner, his is a reading which lives viscerally in the 'here and now'...throughout, the Monteverdi Choir is typically alert and tautly-sprung. Crowd scenes crackle with indignation...while the chorales are loving sculpted around a close reading of the texts...Padmore's Evangelist holds the whole together with the supple, hypnotic Tlan of a born story-teller...Truly this is a jewel beyond price.
Padmore's Evangelist is both ringingly true and acutely observed...perhaps the most disarming quality overall is that Gardiner's understanding of devotional ritual - drawn unquestionably from his unique Pilgrimage a few years earlier - translates into a new world, not wrinkle-free but one where sadness and hope seem to hover as tantalisingly in this work as I have heard.
Recording information: Kaiserdom, Königslutter (03/22/2003).
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Works DetailsBach, Johann Sebastian : Saint John Passion, BWV 245
- Conductor: John Gardiner
- Running Time: 97 min. 52 sec.
- Period Time: Baroque
- Written: 04/07/1724