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JS Bach "St Matthew Passion" - Berlin Philharmonic, 11 April 2010

Ian Macmillan

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I had meant to mention this earlier.  A double DVD is available on the Berlin Philharmoniker's own label of a staged performance some 3 years ago of Bach's Matthäus-Passion that I cannot commend too highly.  It will be very close to me over the next 24 hours or so.


I believe that ENO has given staged performances of the work in the past but I am not familiar with them.  In this case, the performance has been 'ritualised' (their term) by the noted American opera and theatre Director, Peter Sellars, in and around the stage of the Philharmonie in Berlin.  Whilst Sir Simon Rattle is in charge, at the centre is Mark Padmore's gaunt Evangelist.  Padmore must have sung the role many, many times before but I hazard a guess that this performance will have informed all that he has sung, and may sing, subsequently.  It is, at times, simply mesmerising.  As one might expect, the soloists are of top quality, with a special mention going to Magdalena Kožená, Camilla Tilling, and Thomas Quasthoff.  The chorus, too, is deeply involved, never more so than the ladies in Part 2 - magnificent!


There are some short Trailer extracts here:




Access at that link to the whole concert appears to need registration.  However, a longer extract from the opening chorus has been placed on the Philharmoniker's YouTube channel:



Peter Sellars claims "It's not theatre.  It is a prayer, it is a meditation," and I'm with the woman in the audience who later wrote to say that she wished she could have taken part onstage at the end.


Edited to add: Having just found it myself, please try and find a 50 minute period for the conversation between chorus master Simon Halsey and Peter Sellars that can be found via a link given on the YouTube extract - and if that's too much, scroll forward to hear the final 10 minutes or so.

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  • 2 years later...

Something different today - the austere St John Passion (in Latin) by Arvo Pärt, recorded in 1988 in Durham Cathedral with, unusually, a Quartet, the Hilliard Ensemble, at the centre as Evangelist.  Those who find something in Pärt's hypnotic Spiegel im Spiegel, used by a number of choreographers, may find this Passion most satisfying.

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