Stephen Layton / Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment / Polyphony

Bach: St. John Passion

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Performances of Bach's St. John Passion, BWV 245, with these forces or close to them have become an annual Eastertime tradition in London, and this recording is guaranteed an appreciative audience. Certain details relate specifically to this tradition: several chorales are sung unaccompanied, but an accompanied version is included at the end for those who reject the dramatization. The recording may be a specifically British take on the work, with a very rich choral sound that sounds like it comes from a group larger than the 30 or so singers of conductor Stephen Layton's handpicked group Polyphony, and some ultra-expressive singing from all the soloists, most especially tenor Ian Bostridge as the Evangelist. Despite the historically informed performance of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, it's a bit reminiscent of the big symphony orchestra Bach performances of a half century ago. You may find it rich and sumptuous, or you may find it a bit too much, but there are some real pleasures that most listeners will agree on: the crackling dramatic bass interplay between Neal Davies' Jesus and Roderick Williams' Pilate, and the creamy arias of soprano Carolyn Sampson to name two. Hyperion's engineers are also very much in their element here. The album is well supplied with notes by Bach scholar Christoph Wolff, who illuminates the work's difficult manuscript history as well as the choices made in this performance, based on the Neue Bach Ausgabe (New Bach Edition).

Track Listing - Disc 1

Title/Composer Performer Time
St John Passion, BWV 245
1 09:04
2 02:23
3 00:46
4 01:03
5 00:47
6 00:44
7 04:54
8 00:10
9 03:24
10 03:11
11 01:39
12 02:02
13 02:29
14 01:10
15 01:01
16 04:04
17 01:36
18 02:00
19 02:31
20 08:37

Track Listing - Disc 2

Title/Composer Performer Time
St John Passion, BWV 245
1 05:38
2 00:43
3 03:58
4 03:41
5 02:18
6 01:02
7 04:02
8 01:03
9 01:21
10 05:41
11 00:30
12 04:30
13 00:30
14 00:47
15 07:22
16 02:14
17 01:02
18 02:22
19 08:02
20 02:19
21 01:35
22 01:34
23 02:00
blue highlight denotes track pick