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Thread: Recommend a St. Matthew Passion recording

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    Senior Member Meaghan's Avatar
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    Default Recommend a St. Matthew Passion recording

    I realized I have yet to hear this work in its entirety, so (being home) I went looking through my parents' recordings and found one, a rather new one--Riccardo Chailly with the Gewandhausorchester. I was just listening to it and was a bit put off right from the beginning. The tempo for "Kommt, ihr Tochter, helft mir klagen" seemed too fast, which lessened its impact.

    So, though I will try the rest because maybe I'll like it better, I want to find a different recording of the St. Matthew Passion. What recording do you like, and, importantly, why do you like it?

    Thanks!

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    Senior Member World Violist's Avatar
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    My first St. Matthew was Richter's video recording of it, and I actually like that one quite a lot. It's definitely (defiantly?) not HIP in the current sense (vibrato, large ensemble, slowish tempi), but it's very light compared to Klemperer, Mengelberg, etc. There's a dignity and spiritual integrity to it that I've always deeply admired, though, and tremendous dramatic purpose and import; hearing "Erbarme dich" from this video alone is deeply moving, but watching it in the whole context is shattering. The sheer depth of the whole work is brought out amazingly well.

    I'm no expert on this piece, by the way, but another to consider is Suzuki's (obviously). It's different than others. One interesting thing I read about it that I happen to agree with is that it doesn't feel like an enactment of the passion story so much as a re-telling of it, somewhat detached. It's not really a first-choice one, but it's still darn good.

    You might also want to check out Herreweghe. It's quite highly thought-of (the newer one, that is...although I can't find the older one so I don't know if that distinction matters) though I haven't heard it.

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    Senior Member Meaghan's Avatar
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    Thank you, that is helpful! The Richter one sounds lovely, and I don't require HIP, though I like exploring it. I think I will try to find this one.

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    Senior Member GKC's Avatar
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    Try this one:

    http://www.haenssler-classic.de/en/d...231/13231.html

    You can listen to "Kommt, Ihr Toechter" (and other tracks) to see if tempos suit. I love this recording because everything about it is beautiful. M. Schade is amazing as evangelist and M. Goerne is no less as Jesus. (how do you do umlauts here?)

    GKC

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    I like the Herreweghe's intimacy and impeccable sound. Everything is so sensible and user-friendly. It's a classical sauna.

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    Senior Member StlukesguildOhio's Avatar
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    I quite like what I've heard of Suzuki... although there is something stark or detached... quite removed from my other experiences of Bach. Herreweghe is most certainly a top choice. For me, however, the top choice would have to be that of John Eliot Gardiner with the English Baroque Soloists and the Monteverdi Choir... and just look at some of the soloists: Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Barbara Bonney, Anne Sofie von Otter, Michael Chance...





    Gardiner's recording IS HIP. His pacing is appropriate for the profundity of the subject, but also brisk enough so as to avoid the deadening leaden effect of older recordings, and to emphasize the drama and the urgency. The orchestra, choir, and soloists are all top notch and their performance is laden with emotion.

    Seriously, considering that this box set...




    can be had for perhaps less than twice what many St. Matthew Passion recordings go for in spite of the fact that this set includes 22 discs: the St. John AND St. Matthew Passions, the Mass in B minor, the Magnificat, the Easter Oratorio, and some 10 discs of the finest cantatas... all in recordings regarded as the first choice (or one of the first choices), I can't find a better place to start with Bach's choral works.
    Last edited by StlukesguildOhio; Jun-03-2011 at 03:08.

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    Senior Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StlukesguildOhio View Post
    ... For me, however, the top choice would have to be that of John Eliot Gardiner with the English Baroque Soloists and the Monteverdi Choir... and just look at some of the soloists: Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Barbara Bonney, Anne Sofie von Otter, Michael Chance...
    I concur.

    To me, modern instrument versions of this masterpiece from decades past just sound horrible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Meaghan View Post
    ... found one, a rather new one--Riccardo Chailly with the Gewandhausorchester. I was just listening to it and was a bit put off right from the beginning. The tempo for "Kommt, ihr Tochter, helft mir klagen" seemed too fast, which lessened its impact.

    So, though I will try the rest because maybe I'll like it better, I want to find a different recording of the St. Matthew Passion. What recording do you like, and, importantly, why do you like it?

    Thanks!
    I have to say, though I'm no afficianado, I love the Chailly recording which put you off. Probably because I've been to Leipzig, and I like the idea of this being done by the Thomanerchor (the same choir Bach led) and I'm a sucker for boys choirs (the only female voices in this recording are soloists)...but I can understand how the etherial light sound of a boys chorus instead of women sounds odd, when you're not used to it. It is however, how Bach would of know it though, isn't it?

    As to the faster tempo...it's my understanding that musicologists have found that typically the original baroque performances were done at a noticeably faster/lighter tempo than modern large/heavy orchestra/choirs usually attempt.

    This is the first Mattheuspassion I've listened through, so perhaps I'm prejudiced, but I love the mysterious dancing tempo and light(er) voices...just seems more authentic to me. But hey, what do I know?

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    Senior Member Amfibius's Avatar
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    These are the St Matts in my collection at the moment:

    - Klemperer
    - Richter
    - Gardiner
    - Rilling
    - Herreweghe (both of them)
    - van Veldhoven

    Unfortunately, I have to give a big thumbs down to the Gardiner. He takes it at a much faster tempo than the others, such that Komm ihr tochter sounds more like a gay dance than the serious work that it is. It is lacking in gravity. I acknowledge that I have the minority opinion on this one - it seems to be well reviewed and comes highly recommended by many. It just doesn't work for me.

    I also have to give another thumbs down to the van Veldhoven. Of all the versions of St Matts, the sonics on this one are the best (released on SACD). The players sing with a lot of commitment, but the performance can be a little bit scrappy, and again - seems to be lacking in gravity.

    All of the others (Klemperer, Richter, Rilling, Herreweghe) can be safely recommended, but with a couple of asterisks against the Klemperer and Richter. The Klemperer is a landmark recording, featuring outstanding singers like Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (when he was still young and smoking!), and Peter Pears. This is probably as far away from Bach as it is possible - the orchestral forces are massive, and the chorus is overwhelming. The tempo is exceedingly slow, such that there is an anecdote that Fischer-Dieskau complained to Klemperer that the soloists were turning blue sustaining the long notes. Klemperer frowned and conducted even slower still! The sound is quite muddy, and it is difficult to hear what the chorus is singing. However - this recording positively throbs with emotion and tragedy, and you really feel as if the performers are Christians singing in fear of God.

    I have to put another asterisk for the Richter. He uses a modern orchestra, but it is cut down in size compared to Klemperer. The chorus in this recording is exceedingly good - not surprising given Richter's career. Richter's conducting is absolutely straight laced and traditional. Norman Lebrecht did not like Richter - he said that Richter played in a way that made Germans feel safe to be Germans (remember, this was in the 1950's, soon after the war). It is not HIP, but it is still an enjoyable recording.

    If you are after a HIP recording, the Herreweghe can be safely recommended. Both the earlier and later recordings are good, but I prefer the one with Bostridge as the evangelist.

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    i keep gardiner, harnoncourt, klemperer, solti, suzuki & butt and quiet happy from all of them for different reasons except harnoncourt's and butt's

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    Senior Member itywltmt's Avatar
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    The version I own is by La Petite Bande conducted by Gustav Leonhardt.



    I downloaded it from
    http://avaxhome.ws/music/classical/BMPL_flac.html

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    Senior Member sospiro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amfibius View Post
    These are the St Matts in my collection at the moment:

    - Klemperer
    - Richter
    - Gardiner
    - Rilling
    - Herreweghe (both of them)
    - van Veldhoven

    Unfortunately, I have to give a big thumbs down to the Gardiner. He takes it at a much faster tempo than the others, such that Komm ihr tochter sounds more like a gay dance than the serious work that it is. It is lacking in gravity. I acknowledge that I have the minority opinion on this one - it seems to be well reviewed and comes highly recommended by many. It just doesn't work for me.

    I also have to give another thumbs down to the van Veldhoven. Of all the versions of St Matts, the sonics on this one are the best (released on SACD). The players sing with a lot of commitment, but the performance can be a little bit scrappy, and again - seems to be lacking in gravity.

    All of the others (Klemperer, Richter, Rilling, Herreweghe) can be safely recommended, but with a couple of asterisks against the Klemperer and Richter. The Klemperer is a landmark recording, featuring outstanding singers like Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (when he was still young and smoking!), and Peter Pears. This is probably as far away from Bach as it is possible - the orchestral forces are massive, and the chorus is overwhelming. The tempo is exceedingly slow, such that there is an anecdote that Fischer-Dieskau complained to Klemperer that the soloists were turning blue sustaining the long notes. Klemperer frowned and conducted even slower still! The sound is quite muddy, and it is difficult to hear what the chorus is singing. However - this recording positively throbs with emotion and tragedy, and you really feel as if the performers are Christians singing in fear of God.

    I have to put another asterisk for the Richter. He uses a modern orchestra, but it is cut down in size compared to Klemperer. The chorus in this recording is exceedingly good - not surprising given Richter's career. Richter's conducting is absolutely straight laced and traditional. Norman Lebrecht did not like Richter - he said that Richter played in a way that made Germans feel safe to be Germans (remember, this was in the 1950's, soon after the war). It is not HIP, but it is still an enjoyable recording.

    If you are after a HIP recording, the Herreweghe can be safely recommended. Both the earlier and later recordings are good, but I prefer the one with Bostridge as the evangelist.
    To my shame, I don't know this work at all. I'm going to see it here & I want to familiarise myself with it.

    Someone lent me a CD a few months ago & I copied it on to my PC but never played it. Now I've come to play it, it's faulty, but I love what I managed to listen to.

    I don't really know what I'm looking for but I'd be very grateful if you could give me a link to one with a good libretto booklet.
    Ann

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    Senior Member Amfibius's Avatar
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    Hi Annie, every recording I listed in my post above has a good libretto. Unfortunately, I am not aware of one online. However - when I typed "St Matthews Passion libretto" into Google, the 6th suggestion links to a PDF of "part one" of St. Matts. I don't know where the other parts are, but you may have to dig deeper. Good luck!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Amfibius View Post
    These are the St Matts in my collection at the moment:

    The Klemperer is a landmark recording, featuring outstanding singers like Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (when he was still young and smoking!), and Peter Pears . . . However - this recording positively throbs with emotion and tragedy, and you really feel as if the performers are Christians singing in fear of God.
    I'd have to agree with you. I've recently spent most of my time with Gardiner (Herreweghe hasn't done much for me), but a couple months ago I put Klemperer back on and had the same impression you've expressed. So I'm keeping both.

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    Senior Member sospiro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amfibius View Post
    Hi Annie, every recording I listed in my post above has a good libretto. Unfortunately, I am not aware of one online. However - when I typed "St Matthews Passion libretto" into Google, the 6th suggestion links to a PDF of "part one" of St. Matts. I don't know where the other parts are, but you may have to dig deeper. Good luck!
    Thank you Amfibius. It's a booklet I want, not an on-line one.

    Sorry to be a nuisance but could you recommend one which is sing in German? I think it's also recorded in English but I would prefer German.
    Ann

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