John Eliot Gardiner

Bach: St. John Passion [2003 Recording]

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AllMusic Review by

John Eliot Gardiner, the Monteverdi Choir, and the English Baroque Soloists come to Bach's St. John Passion after their ambitious traversal of all the church cantatas, so they are immersed in the subtleties of the composer's expressive sensibilities and musical styles. Their performance of the St. John Passion is emotionally explosive and often darkly dramatic; the opening chorus, for instance, is roiling and tumultuous, almost chaotic, a wrenching opening to the passion narrative. As dark as the tone is, it is never murky; this is the darkness of obsidian whose blackness is revealed when light glints off its sharply defined surfaces. The performances of the soloists match the brilliance, finesse, and clarity of the chorus and orchestra. As the Narrator, tenor Mark Padmore sings with urgency and acute sensitivity to the text; he comes across as an engrossing storyteller. His voice has an exemplary purity and he is equally impressive in the lyrical tenor arias. Bass Hanno Müller-Brachmann is a warmly sympathetic Jesus, and bass Peter Harvey is a forceful Pilate. The remaining soloists, all of whom are excellent, have relatively small parts in the passion, but soprano Joann Lunn and Bernarda Fink are standouts. The recording offers clean and exceptionally well-defined sound. Gardiner's version should be especially attractive to listeners looking for a polishedperformance that emphasizes the emotionally charged atmosphere of the score.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
St John Passion, BWV 245
1 9:24
2 2:31
3 0:52
4 1:08
5 0:54
6 0:44
7 4:40
8 0:12
9 3:23
10 3:11
11 2:04
12 2:17
13 2:32
14 1:19

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
St John Passion, BWV 245
1 1:15
2 4:19
3 1:33
4 2:09
5 2:15
6 8:59
7 5:52
8 0:59
9 3:54
10 4:33
11 2:03
12 1:04
13 3:32
14 1:11
15 1:19
16 5:01
17 0:27
18 4:23
19 0:26
20 0:55
21 7:02
22 2:12
23 1:16
24 2:10
25 7:55
26 2:20
blue highlight denotes track pick