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Systematic Discussions of Bach’s Other Vocal Works

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 - Part 8: Mvts. 63c-68

 

 

Discussions in the Week of July 25, 2004

Neil Halliday wrote (July 31, 2004):
SMP conclusion

A recitative relating that Joseph of Arimathia requested and obtained permission from Pilate to bury Jesus' body, is followed by a lovely accompanied recitative for bass.

This movement contains one of the most poetic images in the whole text of the SMP:

"In the cool of the evening, (when Jesus' body was taken down from the Cross), a dove came again and carried an olive leaf in its mouth, Oh precious time, O evening hour, joy's-close is now made with God..."

This imagery is palpable in the beautiful orchestration, and sets the mood for the following sublime aria "Mach dich mein Herz rein".

Here is joy, acceptance and resignation all rolled up into one, in this aria. The gently swaying motion, with the octave interval figures in the continuo, the strings and oboes da caccia, and bass voice combine to produce one of Bach's, for me, most inspired arias. "He shall in me for evermore his sweet rest have." It's the perfect musicical setting for these words.

I can't quibble about any of the recordings I have, they are all superb. Rilling's recording (with Huttenlocher), with his typically bright orchestration, sounds different to the more mellow 'symphony orchestra' sound of the other recordings.

The following dramtic chorus: "Master (ie, Pontius Pilate), we remember what this deceiver said.." is given a vigorous performance by Richter and others; but Klemperer is plodding (slow) here.

The last of the SMP's 'narrative' texts - ie, the recitative "... and they put a guard on the grave for a watch, and sealed the stone." - is followed by a movement of marvellous conception, in which each vocal soloist has an accompanied recitative line (in the order B,T,A,S) each of which is separated by the full choir quietly singing "My Jesus, goodnight". Notice the trills introduced into the instrumental parts in the last two choral statements; those on the flutes are breathtaking in Richter's recording, and are a marvellous touch from Bach, as a conclusion to the story - ending it with quiet little trills - and forming a contrast to the grandeur of the mighty final chorus that follows.

"We sit down in tears, and call to you in the grave, rest softly, softly rest...your grave and tombstone shall be, for the anguished conscience, a rest-kiss and a rest-place."

Bernstein, at the end of his (partial) recording of the SMP, describes this chorus as "a great, exalted lullaby" (one wonders what he would have made of the OPPP approach).

Here is the spread of timings of the recordings I have, of this chorus:

Richter: 6.28,
Rilling: 6.38,
Karajan: 7.19,
Münchinger: 7.30,
Klemperer: 8.06,
Bernstein: 9.13.

They all sound great (I love the 'growling' repeated double-bass C's below the bass clef); but I remember thinking Karajan's choir sounded too large in places.

John Reese wrote (July 31, 2004):
[To Neil Halliday] Recently a commercial for an allergy medicine used an excerpt from this final chorus to dramatize the plight of allergy sufferers.

Poor taste? Maybe, but it did prompt me to dust off my recording of the SMP and listen to it again.

Aryeh Oron wrote (July 31, 2004):
Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 - Part 8: Mvts. 63c-68 - Introduction

According to the planned ‘Order of Discussion’ for 2004, the topic for this week’s discussion (July 25, 2004) is Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 - Scene 8: Mvts. 63c-68 [73-78]. The short notes below are based on W. Murray Young book’s ‘The Sacred Dramas of J.S. Bach’ (McFarland & Company, 1994).

The high points of this part are:

Mvts. 64-65 [74-75] Recitative & Aria [Bass]: “Am Abend, da es kühle war” & “Mache dich, mein Herze, rein
Recitative: In Young’s opinion, the climax of the entire work comes in this recitative/arioso movement with its following aria for the same bass voice. Joseph of Arimathea is the actor expressing his personal emotions as he attends the burial of his Master. A motif of celestial peace permeates the whole movement – a mystical aura unique in Bach’s works which moves the listener by its text and entrance him by its sound. Schweitzer thinks that ‘Bach expresses the tranquil peace of the falling twilight” in this arioso. It is certainly a miniature tone poem well suited to the descent from the cross.
Aria: This aria is the other outstanding movement in this Passion. Its rhythm shows the suave melody of a siciliano in 12/8 time, but it is the soloist’s feeling for the emotions expressed in his text that makes the listener realise that he is listening to a pure, spiritual music, as Joseph the Arimathea proclaims his lifelong devotion to Christ and his rejection of the world. The motif of calm in the first two lines (the da capo brings it back) is replaced by a motif of joy in the last four lines. The soloist’s artistic runs on ‘begraben’ (bury) and the effective orchestral ritornelli before, halfway, and at the end, make this aria a masterpiece.

Mvt. 67 [77] Recitative [Bass, Tenor, Alto, Soprano & Choir] “Nun ist der Herr zur Ruh gebracht
This movement represents a very dramatic farewell to Jesus, each soloist acting the part of the Daughter of Zion, while chorus 2 represents the antiphonal choir of mourners. The dialogue pattern, which began the Passion (Mvt. 1), is resumed here, but this time with a single voice, varying tenor, alto, soprano, bass, for the daughter of Zion. Terry comments: ‘Picander, in writing the words, had in mind the funeral ceremony customary at Leipzig, where tributes to the departed were offered by relations and others. Here each voice in turn throws a blossom of remembrance into the tomb…’ I believe that the order of the soloists, from the lower voice (bass) to the highest (soprano) is also meaningful, portending the coming Ascension.

Mvt. 68 [78] Chorus “Wir setzen uns mit Tränen nieder
Probably composed at Köthen for the court there, the melody is a sarabande dance form, with the words ‘Ruhe sanfte, sanfte ruh’ increasing from pianissimo to forte. The resulting motif of solemnity resembles a funeral march, thus involving the emotions of the audience with those of the choruses to bring the drama to a reverential close.

I hope to see many of you participating in the discussion.

This is the last and concluding scene of Matthäus-Passion. Next week’s discussion is of the role of the Evangelist.

Uri Golomb wrote (August 1, 2004):
Neil Halliday wrote, concerning the final chorus: < Bernstein, at the end of his (partial) recording of the SMP, describes this chorus as "a great, exalted lullaby" (one wonders what he would have made of the OPPP approach). >
Well, I wouldn't speculate about Bernstein's reactoin; but for me, this chorus works wonderfully well in OVPP. Hearing the dialogues between the two choruses -- especially in the 'b' section -- as an intimate dialogue between two consorts of soloists makes these portions achingly vulnerable and beautiful. This can be heard to marvellous effect in Paul McCreesh's recording. The "loss" of monumentality is, to my ears, actually a gain: I'd rather hear this is as an intimate, humane lament than as a mighty, somewhat impersonal monument.

I actually have great reservations about McCreesh's reading of this movement, BTW, but not because of the OVPP scoring. The singers are terrific, in my view (I know some members of this list have other views); and, in this movement, they form two marvellous consorts -- combining textural transparency with eloquent individual phrasing. The problem is with the orchestra: here -- and in too many other movements as well -- they passively accompany the singers, instead of entering into active dialogue with them, as Bach's intricate textures demand. Thus, the impact of expressive motifs in the vocal parts is fully realised, but similarly affective gestures in the orchestra are turned into a bland background.

I'm still waiting for a recording that will demonstrate the full expressive potential of OVPP scoring in the SMP (McCreesh having already offeredus some tantalising glimpses). Maybe Kuijken will provide this? Or perhaps Junghänel?

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 1, 2004):
Uri Golomb wrote: >>I actually have great reservations about McCreesh's reading of this movement,...The problem is with the orchestra: here -- and in too many other movements as well -- they passively accompany the singers, instead of entering into active dialogue with them, as Bach's intricate textures demand. Thus, the impact of expressive motifs in the vocal parts is fully realised, but similarly affective gestures in the orchestra are turned into a bland background.<<
It is interesting that Johann Mattheson in his "Der vollkommene Capellmeister" [Hamburg, 1739] on p. 207, paragraphs 28 and 29 seems to warn against such a performance practice as Uri envisions. Perhaps McCreesh is aware of sources such as Mattheson, and many current listeners brought up in hearing the Harnoncourt, et al, recordings of the same music have been hearing Bach's music not as Bach might have performed it but rather according to practices created and based upon faulty and incomplete research put forth by a few musicologists and performers in the 50s and 60s of the past century.

Mattheson states in essence: >>Since compositions for voice almost always have an instrumental accompaniment, it is important "daß, wenn beide [Stimmen und Instrumente] zusammen arbeiten, die Instrumente nicht hervorragen müssen" that when both voices and instruments perform together, the instruments must not stand out. This is not to mean that there may never be certain pieces composed in such a manner that an exception can be made to this rule. This only means that when the instruments accompany the voices, they must reduce their volume level to the next lower level "eine Stuffe (sic) herunter gehen," not make themselves as loud [as the singers] "sich nicht so laut machen," uplift/support the voices, but should not allow themselves to be moved into playing louder "nicht aber sich selbst empor schwingen sollen" [to soar upwards, get louder with emotion.] Otherwise, when the voices are silent, it is permissible for the instrumental players to become prominent according to what eachinstrument has to offer, but this must be done in such a way that it does not disadvantage the voices.<<

At this point Mattheson offers an analogy: >>Many a beautiful painting will lose its lustre when it is placed into a golden, carved frame to which the eyes of an observer will be immediately be drawn. This is detrimental to establishing the true value of a painting, particularly on the part of such viewers who are not endowed with a deep-thinking brain. The application here is quite obvious: any true connoisseur of painting would prefer the black frame over the colorful one. This is the same with instruments.<<

I believe that what Uri expects is not in line with Mattheson's nor Bach's opinion on this matter. When Uri states: "they [the instrumentalists] passively accompany the singers" he seems to be referring to the many passages where both voices and instruments are performing simultaneously and not to the instrumental ritornelli and such where the voices are silent. I would be interested in finding out where Uri derives his notion that voices and instruments, when playing together simultaneously, should be completely equal in volume and expression.

Uri Golomb wrote (August 1, 2004):
< I would be interested in finding out where Uri derives his notion that voices and instruments, when playing together simultaneously, should be completely equal in volume and expression. >
I never said "volume". As for "expression" -- I derive this notion from Bach's own music: sometimes, he gives the instruments as much melodic and figurative content, if not more, than the voices (ocnsider "Mache dich", where a long held note by the bass is "accomapnied" by a very distinctive melodic figure in the strings. In such cases, I find it anti-musical to hear a single held note in the foreground, while the orchestra -- which actually has a real melody -- is shoved into the background). Whether the voices should stand "behind" the voices, be qual with the voices or actually take precedence over them is not a matter of general rule: the performers should determine where the focus of musical interest is at a given moment, and create the balance accordingly. Thus, within the very same movement, the balance could favour the voices in one instance, and one of the instruments in another, and then back to voice. It's no different than determining, within a polyphonic texture, which of the parts (be they voices in a vocal fugue, or parts in an instrumental fugue) shoudl take precedence at a given moment. There is no pre-set hierarchy, applicable to the entire movement from beginning to end. That's not how the music is written.

Mattheson and Bach did not hold to the same aesthetics; Mattheson was far less interested in (and, in some of his writings, actively opposed to) dense, imitative contrapuntal writing (see Yearsley's Bach and the Meanings of Counterpoint for a detailed discussion of where Bach stood in the counterpoint debates of his time; he certainly wasn't on the same side as Mattheson on this matter!). While Mattheson was not as extreme as Scheibe on this issue, he was closer to Scheibe than to Bach. The sometimes-equal distribution of melodic, figurative and harmonic interest between voices and instruments was one of the hallmarks of Bach's intricately polyphonic style.

So when the same melodic figure is passed, by imitation, from voice to instrument to other instrument and back to voice, or when the instruments contribute an independent melodic line which does not appear in any of the voices, I find it difficult to believe that Bach only meant us to hear the voices' lines, and that the instruments' lines were meant to be ignored or even marginalised. (To cite but one example out of a multitude: The opening "Credo" in the B minor Mass is a seven-part fugue, not a five-part fugue with two additional voices shoved in the background). IF bach had really wanted his instruments to serve merely as background, he could have easily achieved this by writing them more homophonic textures, with no independent thematic material.

Uri Golomb wrote (August 1, 2004):
In continuation to my previous message: My primary problem with the specific case (McCreesh's recording of the final movement of the SMP) is with the treatment of the continuo line. Bach uses, for the most part, two figures in the bass: repeated crotchets (quarter-notes), and quaver (eight-notes) arpeggiations. [These are not the only rhythmic figures in the bass, but they are most the recurrent ones]. The latter figure -- the quaver arppegiation -- has a powerful expressive potential, yet in McCreesh's version we barely hear any distinction between it and the more "passive" quavers. This, to my mind, means giving up on an important on an expressive potential in Bach's texture: and it is certainly possible to give shape and meaning to these arpeggios without covering the voices! (This is not the only figure that "goes by the board" in this performance).

Bach's music simply isn't written in the form of melody-and-accompaniment, so any performance that treats it as if it does contain immutable hierarchies (this voice-part is always prominent, that instrument-part is always in the background -- regardless of what they're playing/singing at this given moment) unconvincing. We've had this discussion before, BTW (see, for example: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/5219).

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 1, 2004):
Uri Golomb wrote: >>My primary problem with the specific case (McCreesh's recording of the final movement of the SMP) is with the treatment of the continuo line. Bach uses, for the most part, two figures in the bass: repeated crotchets (quarter-notes), and quaver (eight-notes) arpeggiations. [These are not the only rhythmic figures in the bass, but they are most the recurrent ones]. The latter figure -- the quaver arppegiation -- has a powerful exprpotential, yet in McCreesh's version we barely hear any distinction between it and the more "passive" quavers. This, to my mind, means giving up on an important on an expressive potential in Bach's texture: and it is certainly possible to give shape and meaning to these arpeggios without covering the voices! (This is not the only figure that "goes by the board" in this performance).<<
Agreed, but the reason for this is due to number of factors:

1) McCreesh takes a very `lite,' dance-like approach to this aria "Mache dich, mein Herze, rein." Having Joseph of Arimathea dance to the gravesite with Jesus' body is, to put it quite plainly, a rather different, if not abnormal, musical interpretation of the text and Bach's music. This is certainly in keeping with the notion that the dance-like aspects of Bach's passion music must be fully exploited, as Harnoncourt had already attempted. McCreesh's attitude is amply expressed in his interview that is included in the booklet accompanying the recording: "Why on earth should a "swing" be irreverent? All Bach's music, fast or slow, has an almost visceral connection with the dance."

2) Forced to assume literally the assumptions of Rifkin's OVPP/OPPP theory, McCreesh has only Richard Tunicliffe, cello, and Judith Evans, violone, playing the continuo along with James Johnstone 'tootling' along with occasional short chords on the Choir Organ (much of the figured bass seems to be omitted.) This is obviously not sufficient to do justice to Bach's magnificent bass line, as you have pointed out. What I hear are only occasional thrusts and accents on the main beats. I am no longer amazed to hear this as just another of many instances where the highly praised notion regarding the `transparency of parts' in HIP performances fails to live up to its expectations. Actually, one would almost `logically' expect that all the parts would be clearly audible and sufficiently delineated in order to hear what Bach had included in the score, but this is rather frequently not always the case with HIP recordings which profess to have the listener hear it the way Bach might have performed the same music.

Uri: >>Whether the voices should stand "behind" the voices, be equal with the voices or actually take precedence over them is not a matter of general rule: the performers should determine where the focus of musical interest is at a given moment, and create the balance accordingly.<<
As you have clearly pointed out in the link you shared to your earlier comments:
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/5219)

(a discussion beginning with `terraced dynamics' as the topic, where you argue against a simplistic application of volume levels and end with >>I'll go even further: if Bach did want the orchestra to be nearly inaudible at this point, I for one don't want to follow his wishes,<<): >>When the rule is applied, the results are almost always unmusical. There's plenty of evidence (not so much in writing as on recordings) that performers at least tried to apply this rule ["don't change anything until you're explicitly instructed to in the notation"] in the 20th century; I have yet to hear of any evidence that this was required at any time prior to the 20th century.<<

The examples of recordings by Ramin and Richter which you cite made use of the louder, modern-day symphonic instruments and were certainly not played in OPPP-style as McCreesh does. That, along with the larger choir, would definitely affect the balance. Certainly, however, Mattheson gives the evidence of a performance practice ideal which makes the instruments subordinate to the voices, barring the exceptional instances that Mattheson referred to generally. To your statement "I have yet to hear of any evidence that this [rule of `Buchstabentreue'] was required at any time prior to the 20th century," Mattheson is, in essence, requiring that an unwritten rule of volume balance between voices and instruments should be generally and wisely applied. By default, because of the reasons stated earlier, McCreesh fulfills this requirement, but succumbs to other performance practice deficiencies (fast, dance-like tempo, strong accents followed by almost inaudible unaccented notes.) His continuo line becomes unstable and fails to support properly the voice, another requirement mentioned by Mattheson.

Uri: >>Mattheson and Bach did not hold to the same aesthetics; Mattheson was far less interested in (and, in some of his writings, actively opposed to) dense, imitative contrapuntal writing (see Yearsley's Bach and the Meanings of Counterpoint for a detailed discussion of where Bach stood in the counterpoint debates of his time; he certainly wasn't on the same side as Mattheson on this matter!). While Mattheson was not as extreme as Scheibe on this issue, he was closer to Scheibe than to Bach. The sometimes-equal distribution of melodic, figurative and harmonic interest between voices and instruments was one of the hallmarks of Bach's intricately polyphonic style.<<
Agreed. This is the perception that I have been getting from reading Mattheson's "Der vollkommene Capellmeister" where, when faced with solving Bach's riddle canon (BWV 1074), he becomes evasive as he recognizes Bach's superior musical erudition in these matters and, instead of offering his own solution, has some of his fellow members in a musical club which he led present theirs for publication in his book. Various aspects of the galant style are promoted by Mattheson as the modern direction in musical style to be preferred. This meant, as defined by the Grove Music On-line Dictionary: >>A term widely used during the 18th century to denote music with lightly accompanied, periodic melodies, and the appropriate manner of performing the same. Mattheson stated: "Good music requires melody, harmony and `galanterie', the last being equated with the theatrical style, as opposed to the strict or church style, and not subject to rules (except those of `le bon goût')." Here the clear distinction is upheld, as it is also with such important theorists as Heinichen, between church style and theatrical/opera (galant) style. Despite Mattheson's definite leaning toward the galant style in composition and performance, his statements are nevertheless important and can be applied judiciously to our understanding of Bach's own performance style. It is also necessary to judge at which point in Mattheson's life certain opinions/reports are rendered as he had a long life of activity in musical matters.

This is how his record currently stands as explained by George J. Buelow, in his article on Johann Mattheson [(b Hamburg, 28 Sept 1681; d Hamburg, 17 April 1764). German composer, critic, music journalist, lexicographer and theorist] who wrote the following for his Grove Music Online article [Oxford University Press, 2004 -accessed 8/1/04]:
>>Johann Mattheson was the most important contemporary writer on the music of the German Baroque. He documented in unparalleled detail the musical world of those critical years in the 18th century when musical styles and values changed radically in the transition from the Baroque to the Classical period.. Mattheson was Hamburg's first native musical genius, and this is of the utmost importance when considering the substance and validity of his aesthetic and musical theories and critical judgments. He wrote about music from the vantage point of enormous practical experience and professional expertise.<<

In his books Mattheson >>discussed almost every aspect of the music of his day. In most instances he spoke as the rational man of the Enlightenment, a musician who believed in the progress of his art and did not hesitate to codify and rationalize all aspects of music. Mattheson honoured the musical past, but in general he found little in that past to preserve for the future and was often unsympathetic towards German writers and musicians steeped in the traditional musical values of the 17th century.<< [Here we can appreciate the marked difference between J. S. Bach and Mattheson.]

On the importof Mattheson's "Der vollkommene Capellmeister," Buelow states:
>>Among Mattheson's numerous books, the most important is Der vollkommene Capellmeister (1739), an encyclopedia of knowledge that Mattheson believed should belong to the training of every Kapellmeister, i.e. music director in a church, municipal or court musical establishment. He brings together a vast array of facts as well as his most complete statement of several major theoretical concepts. These include the systematizing of the doctrines of rhetoric as they become the basis of composition. Since for Mattheson melody was the basis of all composition, he proposed a complete theory of good melodic writing. A lengthy discussion of emotion in music leads to his famous statement: `Everything [in music] that occurs without praiseworthy Affections, is nothing, does nothing, is worth nothing'. Every aspect of music is viewed in relationship to the Affections, and this section of Der vollkommene Capellmeister is in fact the only attempt found in Baroque literature to arrive at a true `doctrine' of the Affections. The treatise concludes with an elaborate examination of consonance and dissonance and the principles of contrapuntal practice. No brief description, however, can convey the breadth and depth of knowledge in this treatise. The author of Der vollkommene Capellmeister was someone of enormous learning in musical literature; but he was not simply a codifier of facts, and much of this work's value lies in the originality of the presentation and the author's reflections on the most important aspects of the musical thought of his time.<<

John Pike wrote (August 2, 2004):
[To Neil Halliday] I agree with all these comments about the music at the conclusion of the SMP. I also agree with the comments about Richter's recording, which was the first one I ever heard and which was "love at first hearing". (I do not have the other recordings mentioned by Neil). Every piece in the conclusion of the SMP is a gem, especially for me "Mache dich".

I also have Richter's later recording (much less good) and Gardiner, Harnoncourt 3 and Herreweghe 1. I can recommend all these recordings in their entirety.

Neil Halliday wrote (August 2, 2004):
Recordings of arias from Part 2 of the SMP.
(In order of fastest to slowest performance).

'Geduld' (continuo only aria).

1. Rilling/Baldin (3.33). This is the 'ugly duckling' amongst the recordings I have. The single cello playing staccato throughout, and Baldin's over expressive operatic vibrato (plus 'pokey' chords from a small organ) do not make for pleasant listening.

2. Richter/Haefliger (3.45). The continuo is much more substantial than Rilling, but still the 'sempre staccato' treatment of the dotted note figure spoils the aria somewhat. Haefliger is magnificent.

3. Münchinger/Wunderlich (est. 3.50). Attractive voice, and less 'jagged', more flowing continuo, make this a pleasing performance.

4. Klemperer/Gedda (4.56). Again, the detached, somewhat plodding, cello notes, are not to my taste. Gedda is fine.

5. Karajan/Laubethal (5.22). This is the 'beautiful' version of this potentially 'ugly' aria. The cellos (plural) play legato, and we hear a reasonably successful keyboard realisation, from the large (though soft) organ, playing in the background. Unfortunately, Laubenthal's vibrato does become intrusive.

6. Bernstein: not recorded.

7. McCreesh: sample not provided at amazon.de
___________

'Erbarme dich'.

1. McCreesh/Bickley (est. 6.05). The 'meowing' period strings and fast, light articulation are not to my taste. The voice is pleasing.

2. Bernstein/Allen (6.37). Lovely orchestra, with clarity of parts, including pizzicato bass and background strings; nice solo violin.Allen's voice has a not altogether pleasing 'nasal' timbre, but the lack of intrusive vibrato is a plus, and the aria is entirely listenable.

3. Rilling/Hamari (7.03). Beautiful, vivid orchestration, and glorious singing.

4. Karajan/Ludwig (7.13). Lovely orchestration. Ludwig's voice is dark and magnificent as usual.

5. Klemperer/Ludwig (7.23). Lovely orchestra. Very moving performance from Ludwig.

6. Münchinger/Höffgen (7.29). Lovely orchestra with good solo violin, but Höffgen's strong vibrato definitely distracts, and makes it difficult to enjoy this beautfiul aria.

7. Richter/Töpper (7.42). Wonderful orchestration, once again destroyed by excessive vocal vibrato.
_________

'Gebt mir'.

1. McCreesh/? (est. 3.05). This sounds rushed, to me. The bass has a powerful voice.

2. Richter/DFD (3.11). Vigorous performance, also faster than I prefer.

3. Rilling/Huttenlocher (3.24). Another vigorous performance. The orchestral articulation sounds a little "wooden".

4. Münchinger/Krause (3.41). A lively, flowing performance (not too fast), with effective bowing of the wide interval figures on the solo violin.

5. Karajan/Berry (3.53). The orchestra seems a little quiet, or lacking in animation.

6. Klemperer/Berry (4.11). The orchestra sounds somewhat stilted.

7. Bernstein: not recorded.
__________

'Aus Liebe'.

1. Richter/Seefried (4.32). It took me a while to work out what's wrong with this performance; which is, that it's too fast, and consequently Richter does not capture the exulted, aching emotion of this aria. Seefried is fine. (Our dear Richter did tend to extremes at times!).

2. Münchinger/Ameling (4.39). Another relatively fast performance which, despite Ameling's talents, lacks 'ecstasy'.

3. Klemperer/Scharzkofp (4.45). The 'magic' begins to appear, with this recording.

4. McCreesh/Kozena? (est. 4.50, almost the same as Klemperer). Wonderful, ecstatic. (A cynic might say, well, you have only two oboes and a flute, so with a decent singer, and well-judged tempo, what can go wrong?).

5. Bernstein/Addison (5.30) Absolutley beautiful.

6. Karajan/Janowitz (5.38). Very nice, perhaps a little 'dreamy'.

7. Rilling: not recorded on his single CD of excerpts. (Pity, I would like to hear Auger singing this aria).
________

'Konnen Thrannen'.

1. Rilling/Hamari (6.30). A lively, bright performance, which nevertheless holds up well at this speed. Hamari is magnifcent.

2. McCreesh/Bickley (est. 6.35). Another lively performance, with attractive singing from Bickley. McCreesh uses more staccato than is indicated in the score (as one would expect of a HIP conductor), more than I prefer, but nevertheless this performance is enjoyable. Is this dance-like tempo, along with Rilling's, inappropriate for the text? On a musical level, these two performances work well.

3. Münchinger/Höffgen (6.47), and

4. Richter/Töpper (8.03); both recordings suffer from excruciating vocal vibratos.

5. Karajan/Ludwig (9.08). Slow, and moving. (Ludwig is not quite as attractive as she is with Klemperer, on whose recording she uses less vibrato, I think).

6. Klemperer/Ludwig (9.41). Very slow, and very moving, despite the somewhat ponderous unison strings at the beginning. Ludwig is magnificent.

Bernstein: not recorded.

Observation: This aria stands a wide range of tempi.
__________

'Komm,susses Kreuz'.

1. Münchinger/Krause (5.28). This is an attractive, flowing performance, despite it being the fastest of my recordings. Pleasing treatment of the gamba.

2. Richter/DFD (6.27). A relaxing, expansive performance. A pleasing v.da gamba and superb singing from DFD.

3. McCreesh/? (est. 6.30, almost identical to Richter). Very attractive performance, with sensitve treatment of the gamba. Fine bass voice.

4. Klemperer/Berry (6.39). The detached notes on the gamba result in a plodding reading.

5. Karajan/Berry (6.54). Another pleasing performance, except that the gamba is a little restrained, not articulate enough.

6. Rilling,(not on the CD) and

7. Bernstein (not recorded.
________

'Mache dich'.

1. McCreesh/? (est. 5.30). A hurried, dance-like rendition that, as Thomas says, is probably inappropriate for this Passion setting.

2. Rilling/Huttenlocher (6.41). Pleasing performance, with bright orchestration featuring the oboes (in unison with the strings), and fine singing from Huttenlocher.

3. Bernstein/Bell (7.09). Sung in English, Bell's vibrato is disturbing at times. Neverthel, this is an attractive performance.

4. Richter/DFD (also 7.09). Another attractive recording of this beautiful aria.

5. Münchinger/Krause (7.15). Same as above.

6. Karajan/Berry (7.28). Excellent singing: the orchestration seems to have been recorded at a softer level than I prefer.

7. Klemperer/Berry (10.20!!!). And yet, when I last heard it, this recording was mesmerising. The clarity of the swinging octave interval figure in the continuo, the expansiveness of the orchestration, and Berry's superb singing (gentle, expressive power, without any hint of operatic excess), make for a memorable reading.

(Some will find it unbearably slow, but I'm glad to have this recording).

John Pike wrote (August 2, 2004):
[To Uri Golomb] I strongly agree with this. I think that the intimacy of OVPP must be very well suited to this movement.....the faithful few wishing a peaceful rest to the dead Saviour. It also balances well with the highly intimate movement before. The libretto of this movement is really just further thoughts of the few people there wishing farewell to Jesus. I haven't heard McCreesh yet but I received the recording recently and I am now eager to try it out!

Juozas Rimas wrote (August 3, 2004):
[To John Pike] I have heard both McCreesh and Richter's later version and prefer Richter. Of course, if DFD were singing in McCreesh, I'd prefer McCreesh :)

I agree with Uri that it's much better when the orchestra doesn't just "passively accompany the singers". Off the top of my head, I can remember two recordings that I quite often re-listen to and that feature this kind of "active" orchestra, which does not serve as plain background.

The first one is Herreweghe's recording of "Ich habe genug" (BWV 82) aria where the orchestra is just an adequate bit quieter than the oboe and the voice. In Richter's version with DFD, superior due to the quality of singing, the orchestra is, however, much paler and perhaps two times quieter than the oboe. To me it's wrong balance, it doesn't do justice to the celestial orchestral part of the aria - it's so great it must be put forward!

Another instance is Rilling's first chorus of the BWV 11 "Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen". I don't exactly know why, but I hear the insruments much more clearly in it than in other versions. Perhaps thanks to zero echo? Expert conducting? It's so neat to hear the violins play the exhilarating tune (D- C sharp - A - D if I read it ok from my MidiNotate) as clearly.

Jill Gunsell wrote (August 4, 2004):
I just want to record my gratitude to Aryeh and others who have written extensively on the SMP this year, and my apreciation that this discussion is availbale on the website. This is an invaluable archive. Thank you.

Rianto (Haus) wrote (August 6, 2004):
Neil Halliday wrote:
'Gebt mir'.
1. McCreesh/? (est. 3.05). This sounds rushed, to me. The bass has a powerful voice.
2. Richter/DFD (3.11). Vigorous performance, also faster than I prefer.
3. Rilling/Huttenlocher (3.24). Another vigorous performance. The orchestral articulation sounds a little "wooden".
4. Münchinger/Krause (3.41). A lively, flowing performance (not too fast), with effective bowing of the wide interval figures on the solo violin.
5. Karajan/Berry (3.53). The orchestra seems a little quiet, or lacking in animation.
6. Klemperer/Berry (4.11). The orchestra sounds somewhat stilted.
7. Bernstein: not recorded. >

Gebt mir meinen Jesum wieder! - Aria (Bass):

"Give me back my Jesus!
See, the money, the wages of murder,
the lost son throws at you,
down at your feet."

Listening to Cornelius Hauptman and The English Baroque Soloists under JE Gardiner that perform this aria (in 2'52" mins), a certain conception takes shape in mind:

With the Bass in his booming and imposing voice, the pulses, the brisk tempo and the feeling of urgency suggested somewhat by the accompanying string, I can easily imagine the Bass (or other believer) is marching right into the face of the Highpriests, in defiance demanding the right to have innocent Jesus back immediately. The believer has every right, now that Judas has thrown back the 30 silver pieces down at the priests's feet. Heck, the textual and musical imagery are so vivid I can even imagine myself come marching right behind the Bass!

On the other hand, listening to Walter Berry and Philharmonia under O Klemperer (4'11" mins), yet another different imagery is suggested. The performance is slower and as such I can not shake off my mind from the impression of the Bass and the accompaniments "pleading" and "sobbing" incessantly in front of the Highpriests. I don't know why, but the sound and rhythm of the string and the slower tempo sounds very much like sobbing to my ears.

Both performances are pleasing. I like both approaches, different as they are.


Matthäus-Passion BWV 244: Details
Recordings: Until 1950 | 1951-1960 | 1961-1970 | 1971-1980 | 1981-1990 | 1991-2000 | From 2001 | Individual Movements
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | BWV 244a | BWV 244b
Systemetic Discussions:
Part 1: Mvts. 1-8 | Part 2: Mvts. 9-20 | Part 3: Mvts. 21-29 | Part 4: Mvts. 30-40 | Part 5: Mvts. 41-50 | Part 6: Mvts. 51-57 | Part 7: Mvts. 58-63b | Part 8: Mvts. 63c-68 | Part 9: Role of the Evangelist
Individual Recordings:
BWV 244 - Bernstein | BWV 244 - Brüggen | BWV 244 – Cleobury | BWV 244 - Fasolis | BWV 244 - Furtwängler | BWV 244 - Gardiner | BWV 244 - Gönnenwein | BWV 244 - Goodwin | BWV 244 – Guttenberg | BWV 244 - Harnoncourt | BWV 244 - Herreweghe | BWV 244 - Karajan | BWV 244 - Klemperer | BWV 244 - Kuijken | BWV 244 - Lehmann | BWV 244 - Leonhardt | BWV 244 - Leusink | BWV 244 - Max | BWV 244 - McCreesh | BWV 244 - Mengelberg | BWV 244 - Münchinger | BWV 244 - Ozawa | BWV 244 – Ramin | BWV 244 - Richter | BWV 244 – Rilling | BWV 244 - Scherchen | BWV 244 - Solti | BWV 244 - Spering | BWV 244 - Suzuki | BWV 244 - Veldhoven | BWV 244 – Walter | BWV 244 - Wöldike
Articles:
Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244 [by Teri Noel Towe] | Two Easter St. Matthew Passions (Plus One) [by Uri Golomb] | St. Matthew Passion from Harnoncourt [by Donald Satz] | The Passion according to Saint Matthew BWV 244 [By Joshua Rifkin]

Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127

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Last update: ýOctober 1, 2004 ý23:20:46