The transfer of the 1958 LPs to CDs was very nicely done; the sound is very clean yet rich. Richter controls the orchestral balances beautifully, noticeable especially in the ff and pp passages. His tempos seem to me, mostly just right. (Interesting variations in the several appearances of the Hassler tune.) The singing is terrific: Irmgard Seefried, Hertha Töpper, and of course, Fischer- Dieskau, the entire ensemble indeed seems in fine form. It's a dramatic performance by the cast, but not over-blown. I really have no quibbles with this recording; I play it more often than I do my Gardiner/Monteverdi. I have heard the Klemperer and Karajan renditions, each have their own charms.
I love the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra's (RCO) YouTube video of St Matthew Passion. (It's without subtitles, I put English subtitles on the last eight minutes of it and put it here.)
I see that the BPO is offering a discount on their DVD version. I was going to get it then I looked at their website and it looks like it might be in opera format, which I don’t want, I want a concert format production like the RCO’s.
It includes the St John Passion too, which would be great. Here is their ad:
There isn’t a lot of info about the staging on that site only, “semi-staged productions.” I’m trying to find out just how operatic these productions are. I’m concerned that the staging might ruin it for me.
If anybody here has seen those DVDs , I would be much obliged if you could give us your opinion of the staging.
Sorry if this has already been discussed here but I tried to search this sub-forum and didn’t have much luck.
Thought I might write up on the thoughts on the recordings I have of this great masterpiece. Of course it is perhaps the greatest musical work ever written by a man so can be interpreted many ways. Styles have changed and I must confess I find Klemperer hopeless in his slowness in Bach where to trudge is fatal.
The recording which introduced me to this piece 50 years ago was the 1958 one by Richter.
The fact that it’s still available says something for it. Vastly preferable to his slow remake, the tempi are slow by modern standards but vital. I must confess the female soloists leave something to be desired but the men are excellent with Haeflinger’s evangelist leading the way. The whole thing comes over as a vital devotional experience which is great. So dated but still relevant.
This recent release on Harmonia Mundi, by Raphaël Pichon and Pygmalion, is excellent. Whether it becomes my favourite remains to be seen, but it's certainly up there with the best. Fabulous soloists, with a nicely-paced performance from Pichon and the orchestra, which strikes a near-perfect balance between sheer musical beauty and drama.
This was the first Matthew Passion I bought on period instruments. It is still a pace setter today and was considered pretty revolutionary back then with its (then) brisk speeds and dramatic approach. I can remember the first time we heard the Monteverdi Choir live and were taken back by the power of the attack. This is all here with superb choral singing and great soloists. If there is a slight reservation it is the J-E G does not plumb the spiritual depths as obviously as some do. But all in all this is a magnificent achievement which still stands up to most of the competition
There's a new book out this year (my wife is reading it) from acclaimed bestselling author James Runcie, that tells a story of Bach's writing of the St. Matthew Passion. The book is an extension of a 2017 biographical play of the same name, by the same author. Just reading a book review of it, makes me anxious to see it. it sounds fantastic.
For His second studio recording of this great work Harnoncourt sought to combine the scholarship of his HIP with the benefit of modern soloists. It really is superb without a single weakness. Space tend to be brisk but not hurried. The soloists are all first-rate. Obviously there are other ways of doing it but this is a good all-round version which will satisfy