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I have read everywhere how, along with his Mass in D Minor (which I love), St. Matthews is perhaps Bach's other greatest musical achievement and is considered by many to be the topper-most summit in all western music. Indeed a lofty statement! So I decided the time has come to imbibe in this fountain of musical majesty... but where to begin?

So Bach and music lovers the world over... harken! Put your digital quill pens to the web-paper and indulge me with your favorite St. M recordings. And don't be shy: Tell me why! :tiphat:

...if you don't mind.
 

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Just keep in mind that Klemperer is slow, really slow.
You say 'slow', I say 'solemn'. The Passion isn't meant to airy and briskly paced because it detracts from the seriousness of the subject matter. If one is looking for light entertainment, the Passion is not it.
 

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I'm a big fan of Richter's interpretation. It's much slower than most and doesn't use period instruments, but it finds opportunities in the music for emotional exploration that you don't get with most other recordings. As an example of what I'm talking about, there's a two measure stretch in #73 that coincides with the death of Jesus. It's a beautiful moment that may be the climax of the piece musically as well as dramatically (although Erbarme Dich may be the most beautiful aria ever written). Richter draws it out for over a minute and gives the notes a moment to sink in and really overcome you, while more straight-laced recordings dawdle here for half that time or less.

Also, the 1959 Richter recording features Fischer-Dieskau as the baritone soloist - though he's also on the Klemperer recording - which is a huge plus. Very few have the lungs to make it through Mache Diche unscathed, but DFD is up to the task.

Whatever you choose, enjoy the Matthew Passion!
 

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Hmmm

It looks like my recommendation has mainly the same virtues as the Klemperer, which I haven't listened to. I'm recommending Richter over Gardiner, Herreweghe, Koopman, and Harnoncourt. Has anyone else listened to Richter? Are there reasons to prefer Klemperer to it?
 

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Richter's first is slow by modern standards but it is positively lively by the side of Klemperer! I have always had great respect for Richter 1 as I learned the piece through it. It has fervour and if you want the older approach it is pretty good, with Haeflinger and D F-D outstanding.
However, fashions change and now we view Bach differently. Klemperer is only for those who enjoy a dirge.
I've just got the new Jacobs and am considering it. There is a huge amount of fervour which is a definite plus.
Of the others I have, Gardiner is fabulously sung but a bit tight.
Herrewegh 1 is very satisfying.
Harnoncourt (his last one) is excellent.
But Jacobs may end up at the top, given time.
 

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The new Jacobs is very sprightly (fits easily on 2 CDs) but, amazingly, never feels rushed. I'm not sure that I'd suggest it as a first choice - but the more I listen to it the more impressed I am by it.
 

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That's 2 for Klemperer! Noted. Thank you.
Which ever one you go for you should also obtain the historical recording of Willem Mengelberg,the Concertgebouw Orchestra with Karl Erb as the Evangelist. Erb was perhaps the greatest Evangelist of all time.
 
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Which ever one you go for you should also obtain the historical recording of Willem Mengelberg,the Concertgebouw Orchestra with Karl Erb as the Evangelist. Erb was perhaps the greatest Evangelist of all time.
One should note this performance is heavily cut. Ther is also the unending succession of rubatos, exaggerated dynamics, inappropriate, thickly-spread legato, micromanaged phrasing, and a runaway harpsichordist who disfigures recitatives with staccato poundings are among the practices here some, used to a more HIP style, will find objectionable. Of course, many of these reflected the performing style of the time; others, the conductor's willfulness. Just where this performance lies today is a matter of opinion. And accepting that Erb is good, to describe him as the 'greatest evangelist' in the light of some of the superb singers of the part around today (Gura for Jacobs is simply superb) might be a bit overstated.
 

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View attachment 34287

I am not a dedicated follower of fashion. This was my introduction to the masterpiece and it is still my go-to-CD every Easter.
I must confess I prefer the earlier recording by Richter. By this time he appeared to have got far too slow. His doing the charge of the heavy Brigade on the harpsichord did not help the performance either
 

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My favorite Matthäus?
I realized that, for most of ther times, it's the newest one I have listened to, possibly because I tend to discover new things that intrigue me.

So at the moment I'd say the recent Jacobs


I like Jacobs' sense of drama, and I find that the alternation of dramatic and meditative points is quite effective here.

Looking back at my past listening experience, I'd say that Harnoncourt (2nd) and Klemperer are those which I am fonder of, even if now I find the Klemperer one not having a Bach "sound" (sorry, I cannot find a better word) any more.
 

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One to avoid is the Harnoncourt from 2000 - unless the prospect of a soprano sounding like a harpy (Christine Schafer) seems appealing...

A pity, because the ever-reliable Matthias Goerne is in particularly fine voice throughout.
 

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A vote for Klemperer , old style
Herreweghe 99, HIP
 
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One to avoid is the Harnoncourt from 2000 - unless the prospect of a soprano sounding like a harpy (Christine Schafer) seems appealing...

A pity, because the ever-reliable Matthias Goerne is in particularly fine voice throughout.
Agree about Goerne but Schafer sounds to me. In any case, what us a 'harpy'?
 
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