Jos Van Veldhoven / Netherlands Bach Society

Johann Sebastian Bach: St. Matthew Passion [2010 Recording]

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The basic premise undergirding conductor Jos van Veldhoven's approach to Bach's St. Matthew Passion is his conviction that contrary to the standard practice of employing a double chorus and orchestra with the forces divided into two groups of the same size, the groups are not intended to be equal and balanced. He argues that the structure of the work, the disposition of solo parts, the varied musical styles, the content of the texts assigned to each group, and even the unequal degree of the musical difficulty of the parts suggest that the choral parts should be divided into asymmetrical groups, the first larger and the second smaller. The sonic disparity between a larger group and a smaller one works well in practice because generally in the sections where the two choruses sing together the groups either have dramatically contrasting roles or the vocal lines are simply doubled. Van Veldhoven's iconoclastic interpretation is bound to raise a flurry of debate, but the strengths of this performance make a compelling case for the validity of his scholarship. The use of a large and small chorus in addition to the solos and small ensembles give the Passion an even greater textural variety and elevates the level of drama, which is all to the good in a work of this length. He has assembled a large and consistently impressive group of soloists. Gerd Türk is especially compelling in the critical role of the Evangelist. His voice is refined but robust, with none of the reediness that can sometimes characterize tenors assigned the role, and he sings with unmannered expressivity. Bass Peter Harvey also stands out, delivering a resonant and radiant performance as Jesus. The chorus of the Netherlands Bach Society sings passionately and with warmth and purity. The orchestra is generally effective, but the double reeds tend to have a thin and etiolated sound where more substance is called for. Van Veldhoven's reading is particularly well paced dramatically. The sound of the live hybrid SACD recording is clear and nicely detailed, but there is occasional static-y, fluttery disturbance. For those who purchase the CD, the set comes with a beautifully produced book illustrated with a rich assortment of art related to Christ's passion spanning more than 500 years by artists from the Low Countries. This is a version of Bach's masterpiece that should be of strong interest to the composer's fans and anyone excited by a fresh and successful take on a classic work.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244
1 7:52
2 0:42
3 0:51
4 3:00
5 0:54
6 3:58
7 0:39
8 4:53
9 2:11
10 0:45
11 2:57
12 1:19
13 3:13
14 1:03
15 1:06
16 1:02
17 1:01
18 1:56
19 1:41
20 4:51
21 0:42
22 0:56
23 4:20
24 1:20
25 1:05
26 2:23
27 4:34
28 2:11
29 6:05

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244
1 3:22
2 1:01
3 0:42
4 1:07
5 1:43
6 3:53
7 1:59
8 0:54
9 2:21
10 6:12
11 1:03
12 1:47
13 2:38
14 2:11
15 1:05
16 2:20
17 0:53
18 0:16
19 1:08
20 4:47
21 1:43
22 1:00
23 6:37
24 1:08
25 2:35

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244
1 0:58
2 0:40
3 6:39
4 3:24
5 1:21
6 3:09
7 2:22
8 1:31
9 2:33
10 1:57
11 5:52
12 2:29
13 2:01
14 5:46
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