Author Topic: Bach Johannes-Passion / St. John Passion  (Read 36490 times)

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Offline Bogey

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Re: Bach Johannes-Passion / St. John Passion
« Reply #20 on: August 01, 2009, 06:26:05 AM »
Bill, I have the Herreweghe 1725 version, and while I enjoy it - Scholl and Padmore stand out, as I recall - I see it more as a supplementary than an only recording. 'Herr, unser Herrscher' is more powerful and impressive an opening, perhaps my favourite part of the piece - I love. It was disconcerting the first time I played the CD to find myself in the middle of the St Matthew. :D

Nice to see you post here, Novi!  Still enjoying that Herreweghe Matthew you sent my way (though giving my Richter a spin as I type).  So, is the above the only St. Johns you have?
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Offline knight66

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Re: Bach Johannes-Passion / St. John Passion
« Reply #21 on: August 01, 2009, 06:38:45 AM »
I have a version from 1962 with Karl Forster conducting Wunderlich, Fischer Dieskau, Ludwig, Grummer and Traxel....quite a lineup. It is not HIP of course, but it is dramatic and not in the least torpid or overblown. The solo singing is excellent. The expert on this specific recording is Andre, so I hope he happens by.

Unlike the St Matthew, of which I have half a dozen versions, I have not the same attachment to this piece. I have all the main arias on various recital discs, that slakes my thirst for more modern sounds in the music.

BTW, there are two Richter sound only recordings of the St Matthew. That earlier one is the better one by far in terms of pace. Very good soloists, Haeflinger, Topper, DFD etc. The later one has Janet Baker, Schreirer and is so slow as to rule itself out, despite the soloists. The opening chorus lasts 11.26. McCreech sped through it at 6.06...a bit too fast, but that gives you the idea. In his earlier recording that opening chorus took Richter 9.52, a much saner tempo.

Mike
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Offline Bogey

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Re: Bach Johannes-Passion / St. John Passion
« Reply #22 on: August 01, 2009, 07:08:04 AM »
I have a version from 1962 with Karl Forster conducting Wunderlich, Fischer Dieskau, Ludwig, Grummer and Traxel....quite a lineup. It is not HIP of course, but it is dramatic and not in the least torpid or overblown. The solo singing is excellent. The expert on this specific recording is Andre, so I hope he happens by.

Mike

Thanks for dropping by, Mike!

Is it this EMI recrding, Mike?



I will PM André with an invite. :)
There will never be another era like the Golden Age of Hollywood.  We didn't know how to blow up buildings then so we had no choice but to tell great stories with great characters.-Ben Mankiewicz

Offline Bogey

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Re: Bach Johannes-Passion / St. John Passion
« Reply #23 on: August 01, 2009, 07:15:09 AM »


BTW, there are two Richter sound only recordings of the St Matthew. That earlier one is the better one by far in terms of pace. Very good soloists, Haeflinger, Topper, DFD etc. The later one has Janet Baker, Schreirer and is so slow as to rule itself out, despite the soloists. The opening chorus lasts 11.26. McCreech sped through it at 6.06...a bit too fast, but that gives you the idea. In his earlier recording that opening chorus took Richter 9.52, a much saner tempo.

Mike

I tend to like "slow", so it would not surprise me if I preferred the later.  But, have to listen to both because there are the factors of sound and performance to take into mind.
There will never be another era like the Golden Age of Hollywood.  We didn't know how to blow up buildings then so we had no choice but to tell great stories with great characters.-Ben Mankiewicz

Offline Coopmv

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Re: Bach Johannes-Passion / St. John Passion
« Reply #24 on: August 01, 2009, 07:18:39 AM »
I tend to like "slow", so it would not surprise me if I preferred the later.  But, have to listen to both because there are the factors of sound and performance to take into mind.


I also have some problems with the fast tempos John Eliot Gardiner took with some of the Bach's vocal works - passions and cantatas ...

Offline knight66

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Re: Bach Johannes-Passion / St. John Passion
« Reply #25 on: August 01, 2009, 07:19:59 AM »
Yes, you have the correct EMI version there. Ihope Andre can contribute.

As to that Richter St M number 2, I love it for some of the solo singing, Ameling is also an attraction amongst the soloists. But I will alert you to the nails down a blackboard flatness of Matti Salminenin his final aria no 75.

It does have its compensations though.

But sorry, I am off topic.

Mike
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Offline knight66

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Re: Bach Johannes-Passion / St. John Passion
« Reply #26 on: August 01, 2009, 07:23:18 AM »
Oh, yes that reminds me. I forgot to mention that I got rid of the Elliot Gardiner St John Passion. It has good sound, is marvelously sung in the choral sections, but although I very much enjoy his Bach Pilgrimage cantata discs, I find his earlier turbo charged approach that was preserved in the Passions to be perfunctory and with efficient but anonymous solo singing.

Mike
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Offline Marc

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Re: Bach Johannes-Passion / St. John Passion
« Reply #27 on: August 01, 2009, 08:38:53 AM »
Oh, yes that reminds me. I forgot to mention that I got rid of the Elliot Gardiner St John Passion. It has good sound, is marvelously sung in the choral sections, but although I very much enjoy his Bach Pilgrimage cantata discs, I find his earlier turbo charged approach that was preserved in the Passions to be perfunctory and with efficient but anonymous solo singing.

:o

:)

Funny, I consider Gardiner's Johannes-Passion his best achievement in Bach. I think his approach works perfectly well for this work. When hearing it for the first time, I was mesmerized from the first bars.
But Gardiner's Matthäus was a disappointment to me. Uneven, mostly shallow, and sometimes vainly trying to be as dramatic as he was in the JP. But it doesn't work that way with the Matthäus, IMHO. I've always considered the latter a far more introspective work.

If you're interested in another HIP-vision, you might want to try Sigiswald Kuijken. Slow, yet very expressive!
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Offline Coopmv

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Re: Bach Johannes-Passion / St. John Passion
« Reply #28 on: August 01, 2009, 08:44:34 AM »
:o

:)

Funny, I consider Gardiner's Johannes-Passion his best achievement in Bach. I think his approach works perfectly well for this work. When hearing it for the first time, I was mesmerized from the first bars.
But Gardiner's Matthäus was a disappointment to me. Uneven, mostly shallow, and sometimes vainly trying to be as dramatic as he was in the JP. But it doesn't work that way with the Matthäus, IMHO. I've always considered the latter a far more introspective work.

If you're interested in another HIP-vision, you might want to try Sigiswald Kuijken. Slow, yet very expressive!

But I do not believe Gardiner has any plan to re-record any of the Bach Passions.  His Bach Cantatas project is still going, I believe ...

Offline Bogey

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Re: Bach Johannes-Passion / St. John Passion
« Reply #29 on: August 01, 2009, 08:54:51 AM »


If you're interested in another HIP-vision, you might want to try Sigiswald Kuijken. Slow, yet very expressive!

Hmmm....I do enjoy the Mozart I have from him.  Your review of Gardiner has me thinking as well.  Two that with have been easily dismissed without your post.  Thanks!
There will never be another era like the Golden Age of Hollywood.  We didn't know how to blow up buildings then so we had no choice but to tell great stories with great characters.-Ben Mankiewicz

Offline knight66

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Re: Bach Johannes-Passion / St. John Passion
« Reply #30 on: August 01, 2009, 08:56:15 AM »

Funny, I consider Gardiner's Johannes-Passion his best achievement in Bach.


If you're interested in another HIP-vision, you might want to try Sigiswald Kuijken. Slow, yet very expressive!

Thanks. I may well look out a fresh approach. Clearly lots of people respond to some Gardiner recordings that I don't like. I blow hot and cold with him depending on how I feel about specific recordings or performances.

Mike
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Offline Bogey

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Re: Bach Johannes-Passion / St. John Passion
« Reply #31 on: August 01, 2009, 08:56:53 AM »
Thanks. I may well look out a fresh approach. Clearly lots of people respond to some Gardiner recordings that I don't like. I blow hot and cold with him depending on how I feel about specific recordings or performances.

Mike

A very fair statement, IMO.
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Offline Que

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Re: Bach Johannes-Passion / St. John Passion
« Reply #32 on: August 01, 2009, 08:59:51 AM »
Bill, I guess you can't go wrong with Herreweghe but my favourite is Harnoncourt's 1st recording, his 2nd recording was IMO - unlike his retake on the St. Matthew - not a succes.
Another I like is the one Marc has already mentioned: Kuijken, with some very fine soloists, available on the budget with Leonhardt's St. Matthew.

 

Both unfamiliar to me at the moment - my knowledge of recordings is a bit outdated! ;D, but if I was in the market for a new St. John, I personally would also check on these:

 

Good hunting! :)

Q


PS In case you were wondering: no Gardiner or Koopman for me.
« Last Edit: August 01, 2009, 09:01:30 AM by Que »
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Offline Bogey

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Re: Bach Johannes-Passion / St. John Passion
« Reply #33 on: August 01, 2009, 09:08:38 AM »
 


The fact that Leonhardt is involved here has me leaning here along with Marc's comment about its "slowness".  I usually enjoy Harnoncourt without reservation, but it is nice to have other Bach conductors on the shelf as well.
There will never be another era like the Golden Age of Hollywood.  We didn't know how to blow up buildings then so we had no choice but to tell great stories with great characters.-Ben Mankiewicz

Offline Coopmv

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Re: Bach Johannes-Passion / St. John Passion
« Reply #34 on: August 01, 2009, 09:14:02 AM »
The fact that Leonhardt is involved here has me leaning here along with Marc's comment about its "slowness".  I usually enjoy Harnoncourt without reservation, but it is nice to have other Bach conductors on the shelf as well.
 

IMO, St Matthew Passion is still a few notches above St John Passion.  There are just many more memorable movements in St Matthew.  But JS Bach could do no wrong, he never composed any lousy works IMO ...

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Re: Bach Johannes-Passion / St. John Passion
« Reply #35 on: August 01, 2009, 10:31:37 AM »
(Fafner coming out of his cave with a big yawn).... 8)

Oh, hi! The St-John, hmm? Well, let me start by saying it's my favourite large-scale Bach choral work. The Christmas Oratorio is chockful with individual gems, but it's uneven. Th b Minor Mass is austere and awe-inspiring. Like Bruckner's 9th symphony it's a monument at the highest level that demands the utmost concentration from the listener. It asks as much as it gives.

My view of the two Passions is that Bach has understood their respective sources (the Matthew and John Gospels) as well as - if not better than any theologian. The  Passion strucure is not exclusively made up of the Gospels' narratives. In keeping with the genre's well-established tradition, it intersperses the biblical verses (assigned to the Narrator, or Evangelist) with pietist arias and chorales (often sung by the congregation). Musical Passions - at least those of Bach - do not enact Parables or portray miracles. It's a stop and go structure, the narratives prodding the music along, with arias and chorales allowing time for reflexion and musical (spiritual) expression.

In keeping with its source, the Matthew Passion leans heavily towards the 'public' Jesus - his Ministry among the Jews, his sermons, miracles etc. It's very much a spiritual spectacle. As such, its demands are quite unusual: in terms of length, the number of soloists, the choral forces, etc. To this day, Passion plays are still enacted with the same kind of emphasis on "Christ (the Messiah) among us" POV.

Totally different is the St-John Gospel. It skips many events, sermons, parables etc that Matthew scrupulously describes. Remember that Mathew was addressing a jewish audience with the clear aim of demonstrating that everything Jesus said and did proved him to be the Messiah Jews had been waiting for - thereby accomplishing the Scriptures. John, writing much later, was recollecting facts and personal memories long after Christ's death. He couldn't be bothered with that kind of proof by accumulation dear to Matthew. Therefore his narrative is more direct, often very dramatic. He concentrates on key issues and links them directly to the Eternal God (read John 1 for the key to this unique POV).

It's therefore not surprising that Bach's St-John Passion is shorter, more direct and more dramatic than the Matthew. Choral numbers are less numerous, but they can pack enormous punch: the first and last ones are extraordinarily dramatic and affecting. The arias are uniformly sublime. Bach wrote the Evangelist's part differently. Instead of separating the numbers, it binds them. There is a very strong sense of forward motion throughout. Any production that fails to find the right balance of drama, forward motion and fervour of utterance will fail.  

Recordings of the St-John Passion have been on my shelves for more than 3 decades. I'm open to various approaches, but while in the St-Matthew a weak link will not sink the project, the St-John is unforgiving to musical or dramatic weakness. In it, Bach transports us to the celestial spheres from the word go (the gripping, engulfing opening chorus). Any hint of human sloppiness brings it crashing down and destroys the effect. That could be a bovine Evangelist, a braying chorus, a meowing soprano, a croaking tenor, an out of tune orchestra, and worst of all a too churchly approach from the conductor. Fervour and intensity, coupled with impeccable vocalism and a strong musical leadership are a must. Note, too, that the winds have much more to do, and acquire an almost vocal personality in this work.

These specific attributes are seldom united.  One has to be happy with recordings that have them, and adjust our sensibilities to the aesthetic on display. IOW it doesn't matter if it's HIP or not, with well-known or unknown soloists. The versions that have always provided me with the most pleasure are the Forster already mentioned, the Jochum (Concertgebouw, on Philips), and the Hungaroton under Lehel. I've never warmed to the Gardiner (had it, sold it). I've extensively sampled quite a few others and despite very good things here and there, the conclusion remains the same: duly accounted for, found wanting, and discarded.

(edited for typo - no new material;) ;)
« Last Edit: August 01, 2009, 03:45:13 PM by Lilas Pastia »

Offline Bogey

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Re: Bach Johannes-Passion / St. John Passion
« Reply #36 on: August 01, 2009, 10:39:59 AM »
Wow!  Thank you very much André.  Well with that incredible overview, and I believe have nailed it down to two or so....the Kuijken and the Foster.  Now to the sampling.
There will never be another era like the Golden Age of Hollywood.  We didn't know how to blow up buildings then so we had no choice but to tell great stories with great characters.-Ben Mankiewicz

Offline Bogey

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Re: Bach Johannes-Passion / St. John Passion
« Reply #37 on: August 01, 2009, 10:45:49 AM »
If I can find any samples.
There will never be another era like the Golden Age of Hollywood.  We didn't know how to blow up buildings then so we had no choice but to tell great stories with great characters.-Ben Mankiewicz

Offline knight66

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Re: Bach Johannes-Passion / St. John Passion
« Reply #38 on: August 01, 2009, 10:54:58 AM »
Thanks Andre for being coaxed out of your cave, very helpful.

Mike
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Re: Bach Johannes-Passion / St. John Passion
« Reply #39 on: August 01, 2009, 10:57:16 AM »
Now I know why the St John is shorter than the St Matthew!  It doesn't really bother me that the St Matthew Passion is so long though because it's such a great, beautiful work. :)