Recordings/Discussions
Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

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

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244

Conducted by Paul McCreesh

Part 1

V-2

Bach: St Matthew Passion

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244

Paul McCreesh

(OVPP - No Choir) / Gabrieli Consort & Players

Chorus I: Soprano: Deborah York; Mezzo-soprano: Magdalena Kožená; Tenor: Mark Padmore; Bass: Peter Harvey
Chorus II: Soprano: Julia Gooding; Mezzo-soprano: Susan Bickly; Tenor: James Gilchrist; Bass: Stephan Loges
Soprano in ripieno: Ulla Munch

Archiv Produktion

Apr 2002

2- CD / TT: 161:32

Recorded at Roskilde Cathedral.
Buy this album at: Amazon.com

Rediscovering the SMP - McCreesh

Kirk McElhearn wrote (January 31, 2000):
What a pleasant evening I had last night. As part of the Folles Journees de Bach festival in Nantes, France, the French classical music radio station played Paul McCreesh's SMP, recorded on Friday.

I originally planned to just listen to the beginning, and settled in, lying down comfortably (my favorite position for listening to music). As soon as the music began, however, I knew this was something new and different. I ended up listening to the end.

I truly felt as I had the first time I listened to the SMP. Here was a new, fresh version of the work, taking chances, and making choices that were both surprising and audacious. At first it was a bit of a shock, but once I got used to it, it seemed so normal.

The first surprise was the tempi. It was fast, much faster than, say, Leonhardt, and it made Richter's version (an excerpt of which I heard yesterday in a documentary on TV) like slow motion. The entire work clocked in at about 2:30, compared to more than 2:50 for Leonhardt.

But these tempi were not excessive, nor did they seem incorrect. Sometimes, you can lose the balance of a work when it is played too fast, but there was no such feeling here.

The other main difference was the small choirs he uses. I don't know exactly how many singers there were, but it was such that I could make out the individual voices in the choral passages. The texture that this provided was incredible.

He also chose a counter-tenor for the alto part, and this singer's voice was excellent. The only weak point of the soloists was the soprano, whose voice sounded weak, but this might have been because of the bad acoustics.

I see that McCreesh has not yet recorded this, and will definitely keep my eyes open for it when he does.

Question - is the Suzuki version similar in scale? I didn't follow the discussions about it a while ago...

Matthew Westphal wrote (January 31, 2000):
Kirk McElhearn wrote:
< What a pleasant evening I had last night. As part of the Folles Journees de Bach festival in Nantes, France, the French classical music radio station played Paul McCreesh's SMP, recorded on Friday. snip good description of the performance] The other main difference was the small choirs he uses. I don't know exactly how many singers there were, but it was such that I could make out the individual voices in the choral passages. The texture that this provided was incredible. >
I have it from the Gabrieli Consort's general manager that McCreesh never uses more than 12 singers total for the SMP (including all soloists), so the choruses (the double choruses, at least) were almost certainly one-singer-per-part. (That seems to be the way McCreesh does Bach -- viz. the Epiphany Mass program.)

< I see that McCreesh has not yet recorded this, and will definitely keep my eyes open for it when he does. >
McCreesh records for DG Archiv (now just DG), which is Gardiner's label as well. Since (I gather) Gardiner's SMP is still well-respected and reasonably popular and Gardiner remains a top-selling artist in other repertory, I wouldn't count on DG replacing Gardiner's SMP with one by McCreesh anytime soon. (I hope I'm wrong.)

This spring, however, McCreesh & Co. are touring with and recording a program including the Easter Oratorio and the Magnificat. (I don't know if a full or partial Lutheran Vespers liturgy has been reconstructed for this program.)

< Question - is the Suzuki version similar in scale? I didn't follow the discussions about it a while ago... >
No. I still haven't heard it myself, but Suzuki has a choir to feed, as it were. The choir is as much a part of the BCJ as the orchestra, and he definitely used the full choir for his SMP (I have an acquaintance who sang in the choir for that recording). The scale is probably similar to that of his SJP.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (January 31, 2000):
Matthew Westphal wrote:
< No. I still haven't heard it myself, but Suzuki has a choir to feed, as it were. The choir is as much a part of the BCJ as the orchestra, and he definitely used the full choir for his SMP (I have an acquaintance who sang in the choir for that recording). The scale is probably similar to that of his SJP. >
Can you tell me more about the SJP?

Matthew Westphal wrote (January 31, 2000):
Kirk McElhearn wrote:
< Can you tell me more about the SJP? >
As usual, lazy lout that I am [I'll refer you to my Amazon.com review rather than writing another one: Amazon.com

The choir is 16-20 (I forget exact numbers), and the orchestra sound similar in size to that which Koopman is now using for the cantatas.

If you have any more detailed questions, let me know.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (February 1, 2000):
From the Gabrieli Consort, by e-mail:
"Thank you for your comments and for your enthusiasm for our work. We will be recording the St Matthew Passion for DG Archiv in spring 2002, and I expect it will be released later that year. Our next DG release will be Händel's Theodora, due out in July of this year."

 

SMP in UK

Jill Gunsell wrote (March 31, 2001):
For UK listers: McCreesh/Gabrieli are performing the SMP on Easter Sunday at the Barbican, start time 7 pm. I haven't had time to check, but it's probably a sell-out.

 

McCreesh SMP Update

Pete Blue wrote (June 17, 2002):
A couple of years ago or so (I don't think it was on this List because I read it more recently), Kirk McElhearn (I think it was Kirk) relayed an email from the Gabrieli Consort that Paul McCreesh was scheduled to record his OVPP SMP in the spring of 2002, with a scheduled release in the fall of 2002.

Spring ends this week. Does anybody know if the recording took place as scheduled? And if so, who the soloists are? I know McCreesh has a busy touring schedule -- he's supposed to do the Magnificat and Easter Oratorio here in New York next Easter -- so I wonder if he was able to fit in the sessions.

Riccardo Nughes wrote (June 17, 2002):
[To Pete Blue] Yes, according to the DG web-site the MP directed by McCreesh has been recorded in may in the Roskilde Cathedral, Danemark. Soloists were not indicated.

Marten Breuer wrote (June 17, 2002):
[To Riccardo Nughes] It seems to be noteworthy that McCreesh recorded the 1729 (or 1727) version, which is so far not available on the market, see:
http://www.deutschegrammophon.com/studio/right.htms?DATE=2002_04

Donald Satz wrote (June 17, 2002):
[To Riccardo Nughes] There's a great organ at the Roskilde Cathedral which likely sounds much better than the forthcoming SMP - couldn't resist.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 18, 2002):
Marten Breuer commented:
< It seems to be noteworthy that McCreesh recorded the 1729 (or 1727) version, which so far not available on the market >
The NBA devotes a separate volume to this 1729 version which exists only in a copy by Johann Christoph Altnickol. Large portions of the copy are reproduced in facsimile. None of Bach's originals from this early period of development of the SMP have survived. This early version is designated as BWV 244b.

The primary editor, Alfred Dürr, has the following to say about this version: (my paraphrase of the German follows)

It appears that the primary autograph score (1736) is almost the same or completely the same as the 1729 version. The structure of the work was left almost untouched for the later version. (The final chorale of Part 1 was switched around with another, an additional chorale was added and occasionally the instrumentation was changed. Most of the other changes served to enrich what was already there or to smooth out structural aspects of a movement.) Compare this with the SJP which underwent extensive, deep-reaching changes from performance to performance.

These two editions of BWV 244 and BWV 244b can hardly be viewed as different versions that can stand independently and equally, each on its own. It nevertheless will be interesting for a Bach scholar to study this score [and hear it in a new recording - my words.] One remarkable reason why this 1729 copy is so important is that, contrary to many other works by Bach, where numerous copies were made during his lifetime pointing to different stages of development, this Altnickol copy is quite unique in that all other extant copies point back to this single early version of the work.

It is not clear whether Bach intended the chorale "O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig" to be sung in this first version of mvt. 1. It does not appear in the score. Altnickol may have overlooked mvt. 17 since it is missing in his version. Mvt. 19 indicates transverse flutes, although the mvt. seems to have been composed with the recorders in mind. Did Altnickol change this or did Bach?

Altnickol was not very conscientious in reproducing Bach's original score (there are many careless mistakes).

Matthew Westphal wrote (June 18, 2002):
[To Pete Blue] The recording did take place, as Riccardo pointed out.

Here's the andante.com review of the performance at the Barbican in London, one of four before the recording sessions (the others were in Lisbon, Munich and Aldeburgh): http://www.andante.com/magazine/article.cfm?id=16397

(Here's another andante.com review -- I wrote this one -- of McCreesh doing both Passions in France in August of 2000: http://www.andante.com/magazine/article.cfm?id=10417 )

There's one detail about the recording that I'm not sure of: Deborah York was originally slated to sing soprano 1 on the tour and the recording. In London, at least, Joanne Lunn sang soprano 1. (York was, I gather, indisposed.) I don't know whether York or Lunn sang soprano 1 in the remaining concerts on the tour or for
the recording.

You can find other reviews of that and other recent performances by the Gabrieli Consort and Players at their Web site: www.gabrieli.com.

Charles Francis wrote (June 24, 2002):
[To Riccardo Nughes] Attended a couple of concerts in this cathedral some years ago - Ars Nova and Westminster Cathedral choir. Good acoustics for Renaissance music, but probably too reverberant for Bach.

 

Matthäus-Passion-Paul McCreesh

Paul Dirmeikis wrote (January 21, 2003):
This information from DGG :

Planned release : spring 2003
CD http://www.dggb2b.net/b2b/yellowpages/yp.htms?PPID=72430">999761-2
Paul McCreesh
BACH: St. Matthew Passion
Deborah York / Julia Gooding / Magdalena Kozená / Susan Bickley
Mark Padmore / James Gilchrist / Peter Harvey / Stephan Loges
Gabrieli Players / Paul McCreesh

Kirk McElhearn wrote (January 21, 2003):
[To Paul Dirmeikis] I'm definitely looking forward to that! And with Magdalena as well!!!!

Marten Breuer wrote (January 21, 2003):
[To Paul Dirmeikis] Well, I had expected they were going to release BWV 244a (or b) instead of BWV 244. According to their announcement, however, it's the "ordinary"
version: Deutsche Grammophon

Too bad...

BTW, Koopman's recording of CPE Bach's SMP 1769 is out, see: JPC

Armagan Ekici wrote (January 21, 2003):
This might be old news but I remember reading that it is going to be an OVPP recording.

 

McCreesh's St. Matthew Passion

Matthew Westphal wrote (March 3, 2003):
The McCreesh/Gabrieli Consort & Players St. Matthew Passion on DG Archiv should be released some time in March or April (I can't find a release date). In the meantime, there are audio clips (about 60 seconds from each track), an essay (from the booklet?) by organist Timothy Roberts, and a very interesting interview with McCreesh: http://www.deutschegrammophon.com/special/?ID=mccreesh-stmatthewpassion

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (March 3, 2003):
[To Matthew Westphal] I listened to a few sounnd clips, and it doesn't sound bad, but the singing actually seems a bit operatic at times. I have recently realized that my problem with vibrato was really quite foolish and more-or-less non-existent, but the male "choristers" really muddle things up here-which could be fixed by less vibrato in the singers or simply more than an OVPP choir. As well, the way Padmore transitions between notes and sings other things sounds innappropriate for the style-this is where it sounds operatic. Hopefully McCreesh doesn't do Händel with OVPP-not fun (sorry fellow Bachians: British Choral Music rules!). Again though, I am taking the "Lehmanian" approach to OVPP at the moment as far as German music is concerned-that is, placing more importance on how the music sounds than what history is being debated. In other words, I base it largely on how the implementation of the theory works out. I'm going to be a bit brave here: I really do enjoy Rifkin's "6 Favourite Cantatas", and Parrot's BWV 232, BWV 245, BWV 249 and BWV 11 from the Virgin Black Box set. However, with the possible exception of the chorales and the opening chorus, the McCreesh's BWV 244 choral singing doesn't further open my mind to the approach.

note: this is all based on minute-long clips of a not-yet-released (?) recording, and the final product may be different.

Despite all this, the interview was enlightening, as McCreesh made a comment I wholeheartedly espouse: "But ultimately my interest in musicology is only in that it informs my own personal musicianship. The purpose of the exercise is not to prove an academic theory, but to open the ears to the fantastic musical possibilities in performing Bach's music in this way." I espouse it not just in music, but in all art and all life really-education and academia's biggest purpose is to enhance, enlighten, enrich and make more enjoyable the life of the individual.

Laurent Planchon wrote (March 3, 2003):
This sounds quite interesting and one can hope it signals more -finally convincing- OVPP efforts are coming.

It seems to me that Timothy Roberts got one rather important (considering that he places it "above all") fact wrong in his article : The oboe da caccia was only rediscoverded for Harnoncourt's Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) recording (ca 1973), and not for his first St Matthew passion (ca 1970). That must be embarassing !

Kirk McElhearn wrote (March 3, 2003):
[To Matthew Westphal] My firstthought is "finally". I heard his SMP on the radio here in France, performed live about two years ago. It was mesmerizing. But, after looking at the page, I have some thoughts:

How can he fit the entire passion on 2 CDs? Has he cut some of the numbers short or what? I recall it having been faster than most versions, but is it really that fast?

I am a big fan of Magdalena Kozena, yet listening to the clips she seems to be overusing vibrato, which is not at all the way she sings in other Bach. Is McCreesh a vibrato fan?

Listening to the soprano in number 49, there is a surprisingly pure voice, with almost no vibrato. So this contradicts the previous comment - it's not McCreesh. It is inconsistent.

Ehud Shiloni wrote (March 3, 2003):
[To Kirk McElhearn] Herman Max recorded the SMP on only 2 CD's as well, with just a bit of a hurry...

Riccardo Nughes wrote (March 3, 2003):
[To Matthew Westphal] for japanese Hmv is 26-03-2003
http://www.hmv.co.jp/Product/Detail.asp?sku=395297

thanks for the good news!

Uri Golomb wrote (March 3, 2003):
I attended McCreesh's live St. Matthew Passion with the same singers (and, I assume, mostly the same players as well) as in the advertised recording; my review was posted on: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/SMP-Golomb.htm. To put it briefly -- I enjoyed it very much, a few reservations notwithstanding; and I really look forward to the recording.

About the timing: I have not heard another complete recording that fits on 2 CDs (I know about Hermann Max -- and I think there's also a Paul Goodwin recording which was released on 2 discs -- but I have yet to hear either). However, I once calculated that Gardiner's recording clocks in at just under 160 minutes -- so it could have fitted on 2 CDs... For comparison: Harnoncourt's latest recording of the SMP is 162 minutes long; Herreweghe's 2nd is 161 minutes; and Suzuki's is 164 minutes. By today's standards, none of these counts as an especially hurried or hard-driven recording, I think; yet they are all just above the 160 minute mark. I know, both from my what I heard at his concerts and from what McCreesh himself says in the interview, that his first chorus is indeed unusually fast; but other than that, I expect that his recording would not be unmarkedly hurried. The fact that it fits on two CDs is certainly not, in itself, a cause for concern...

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 3, 2003):
[To Uri Golomb] Goodwin brings it in at 151 minutes. Some of it does seem a bit fast.... Interestingly, it's from a semi-staged production (by Jonathan Miller) and that sense of the real stage is part of it.

The opening chorus is 6'48", which isn't much faster than Herreweghe in 1985 (7'08"). Is anybody slower than Klemperer's 11'46" and Mengelberg's 10'56"?

Riccardo Nughes wrote (March 3, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] In the middle you can find Karl Richter and his second recording from 1979: "Komm.." stops at 11'05". While my preferences usually go to HIP-recordings, I have to admit that this is one of my favourite SMP.

 

St. Matthew Passion/McCreesh

Steven Guy wrote (March 8, 2003):

Has anyone heard the Paul McCreesh recording of the St. Matthew on ARCHIV yet? I understand that he has used only eight singers - not enough to even cover the ninth vocal line (Soprano in ripieno) in the opening chorus!

I remain a sceptic about the OVPP approach in the Passions and B minor Mass - although I don't mind hearing the cantatas performed this way. I am rather inclined to buy the relatively recent Philippe Herreweghe recording on HARMONIA MUNDI - which features a multi-voiced chorus. I have listened to the Magnificat recorded by McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort & Players and I just couldn't get into it - it sounded dull to me and the voices didn't blend well. Did anyone else feel the same?

BTW - I saw Andreas Scholl in concert on Thursday night (6/03/'03) and he was superb.

Charles Francis wrote (March 8, 2003):
[To Steven Guy] I assume this is the expensive Japanese CD set (88 Euro)? If so, given the tasteless tempos in his Magnificat, there's no way I'm spending that much - I have a dozen or so recordings of the MP already, so at this price, it's no sale (any record companies out there get my point?).

Talking of tasteless recordings, I would advise against the more recent Herreweghe - Jesus jauntily carrying the cross uphill in the opening chorus, reciting the mantra "Baroque music is based on dance". Try something more substantial like the Klemperer.

Matthew Westphal wrote (March 9, 2003)
Steven says:
>>> Has anyone heard the Paul McCreesh recording of the St. Matthew on ARCHIV yet? <<<
I don't think it's officially released in most countries yet; it should be out in late March or early April, I think. But there are several pages devoted to it at DG's Web site, with a good interview with McCreesh, an essay by organist Timothy Roberts, and streaming audio clips from every track on both CDs. Go to
http://www.deutschegrammophon.com/special/?ID=mccreesh-stmatthewpassion

(NOTE: When you get to the page, you'll hear a repeating clip of Magdalena Kozena singing "Ach, nun ist mein Jesu hin." If you want to listen to the streaming clips, you have to turn that off -- click on "sound off" in the lower left corner of the McCreesh picture at the top of the page.)

Charles says:
>>> I assume this is the expensive Japanese CD set (88 Euro)? If so, given the tasteless tempos in his Magnificat, there's no way I'm spending that much - I have a dozen or so recordings of the MP already, so at this price, it's no sale (any record companies out there get my point?). <<<
I haven't seen the US or European list prices yet, but I'd be surprised if they
run even as high as 50 dollars/euros. It's only two discs.

Charles:
>>> Talking of tasteless recordings, I would advise against the more recent
Herreweghe - Jesus jauntily carrying the cross uphill in the opening chorus, reciting the mantra "Baroque music is based on dance". Try something more substantial like the Klemperer. <<<
McCreesh's tempo is similar (as you'll hear). I really disagree with Charles about this. My feeling is that the quicker tempo conveys an urgency that fits the text. ("Come, you daughters! Help me weep! See!" "What?" the Bridegroom!" and so on.) For me, Klemperer feels way too ponderous -- more like "I want you daughters to come weep with me, but I'm J U S T T O O O D E P R E S S S S S S S E D to show any urgency about it."

Obviously, my own reaction to these performances may differ from those of others. (NOTE to non-Americans: if you've ever wondered, that's what "your mileage may vary" or "YMMV" means -- it comes from automobile commericals on television; it's a disclaimer that says that while we the advertisers may brag about how far you can go in our marvelous new vehicle with a tank of gasoline, you may or may not get such good results after you've already bought the car.)

Steven:
>>> I understand that [McCreesh] has used only eight singers - not enough to even cover the ninth vocal line (Soprano in ripieno) in the opening chorus! <<<
When McCreesh and the Gabrielis have done the SMP in concert, that's usually the case; the chorale is played on the organ. (It seems that Bach himself did this at the first performance.) For the recording, it sounds like he's using two singers plus organ. It's not nearly as strong as in most recordings, but in most recordings it's hard to hear the other parts while the ripienists sing the chorale and in this one those parts are audible. (One of the relevant passages can be heard at the DG site.)

Steven:
>>> I remain a sceptic about the OVPP approach in the Passions and B minor Mass - although I don't mind hearing the cantatas performed this way. <<<
Do you mean you're skeptical that OVPP is the most effective approach today or you're skeptical that OVPP is the way Bach did it?

Steven:
>>> I have listened to the Magnificat recorded by McCreesh and the Gabrie
Consort & Players and I just couldn't get into it - it sounded dull to me and the voices didn't blend well. Did anyone else feel the same? <<<
I didn't find it dull, and I thought the alto and tenor solos (sing by Robin Blaze and Paul Agnew) were terrific. I agree that the blend wasn't ideal on that recording; based on something McCreesh once said to me in an interview, I think he thinks so too.

I don't think that invalidates the OVPP approach at all (especially since I'm convinced by the arguments that that's what Bach did himself). I just think it means that this particular Magnificat recording isn't entirely successful. (I like Parrott's Magnificat somewhat more than McCreesh's and his Easter Oratorio a good deal more.)

But feelings about the OVPP issue -- especially on the anti-OVPP side -- are so high that merely admitting that a particular example of OVPP performance isn't entirely successful can mean giving ammunition to those who want to delegitimize and put a stop to the entire practice.

It's not unlike the position that period-instrument performance itself was in 20-25 years ago. Back then, for many of us who loved the idea of using the instruments that the composers wrote for and wanted to see the practice continue, spread and improve, it often seemed like merely admitting a weakness -- that, say, the Harnoncourt Bach recordings were occasionally sloppy or raucous or that the Hogwood Mozart symphonies could be dull -- was dangerous. It would help the people and institutions who dismissed period instruments altogether and wanted them to go away so that the existing chamber orchestras (and symphonic orchestras) could keep playing that repertory the way they always had.

Charles Francis wrote (March 10, 2003):
[To Matthew Westphal] Thanks for posting the link Matthew. The samples are very generous with complete chorales in many cases! As you might guess, I disliked the opening chorus and, moreover, I disliked the way the chorales are performed. Oh well, I must wait for a Klemperer look-alike to attempt OVPP.

Matthew Westphal wrote (March 10, 2003)
Charles says:
>>> Oh well, I must wait for a Klemperer look-alike to attempt OVPP. <<<
Now THERE'S an interesting idea ...

That's a good question for the group: who among our currently active conductors would be good at Klemperer-esque Passions? And if the St. Matthew would be OVPP (St. John would be 2VPP, and the two existing 2VPP St. Johns sound less different from Suzuki's chorus than you might think), who would be good singers for a Klemperer-style performance?

Sw Anandgyan wrote (March 15, 2003):
Really a Beginner

I wanted to acknowledge Ryan Michero for having pointed out the notion that there must had been more than one live recording done and although it is not indicated in the liner notes of the reissue (that I bought second-hand), the decca website at least mentions which tracks were recorded seven months later in the Frans Brüggen discography. http://www.deccaclassics.com

Somehow I think it has been pointed out before. I did not read the archives
...

Suffice to say that I've moved on from hoping to buy the "best" version of a specific work to allowing myself to the treat of a variety of conductors.

All this to say that I haven't come around to listen to the SMP from Paul McCreesh for there was the one with Karl Richter to listen to that really amazed me and then the Frans Brüggen one that is quite nice. I'm much of a neophyte, I had only taken the time to listen to the most recent Harnoncourt St. Matthew Passion twice or thrice under "proper recommendations ".

I have joined mainly to read your comments on the new SMP release and I'm "building up" to it ...

Back in lurker mode and studying stance !

Piotr Jaworski (March 17, 2003):
[To Matthew Westphal] Well ... we will all soon have lot's of to discuss ....

McCreesh SMP is available in Poland since last Friday - I could not stand waiting, took my weekend allowance and rushed to the store!

It's price is much less than two full priced CDs! In one Polish Internet stores it's almost bargain - something like 17-18 $ (!!!) Of course I had to pay more - around 22 $. I wonder if Universal is so generous in my country only or will spread it across the world as well! ;-)

I'm with this recording for almost 4 whole days, listening to it early morning, late in the night, while working, answering calls .... I never needed to become more 'convicted' to OVPP option - Rifkin, Parrott and recently - Kuijken - convinced me enough; but I was so much afraid about this performance...

But when I started listening reading alongside booklet notes and interview with McCreesh, when I listened for the third .. sixth time ... when I turned - in the breaks - to other Passions (my favourites are last Harnoncourt and Suzuki) ... I became to realize that most of my 'fears' were completely ill-founded! I like this recording more and more .... it was so much worth of waiting for.

Piotr Jaworski (March 21, 2003):
I'm sure that JSB would not mind to listen to Paul McCreesh performance of his own SMP as the part of his Birthday Celebration! I'd very, very much like to learn his opinion about that .... From my part - this will be the Work and the Recording I will listen again and again for the forthcoming weekend - in fact - already the second weekend with this very interesting recording.

Ehud Shiloni wrote (March 24, 2003):
[To Piotr Jaworski] I bought it last Friday, right on Bach's birthday. I listened just once, over my car CD [ where I do a lot of listening...], two-thirds yesterday and the rest today. The last 20 minutes I spent sitting in the car in the parking lot, unable to cut loose and go to the office. Quite a rivetting performance, and a huge contribution to the OVPP genre. The most surprising and unexpected effectiveness of the "thin choir" came through in the energetic "Sind Blitze, Sind Donner" and in some turbae sections.

Some of the chorals take on a special magic with the small group of singers. The effect of the opening and closing choruses is more intimate but no less tragic.

The soloists: York is excellent. Kozena and Padmore [evangelist] are very good but not brearthtaking. Peter Harvey sounds somewhat underpowered. The second "quartet" is OK.

Overall ranking: I am not sure if this one is "the best", but if I were to take just three versions to the "desert island", it will without doubt be one of those three. It is a highly worthy fresh look at the venerable SMP. Bravo! McCreesh.

P.S. TT on 2CD's: 2:41:32.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 24, 2003):
With the ongoing discussion of this recording, it might be of interest to others to read, if they have not already done so, Matthew Westphal's interview with McCreesh:
Amazon.com

Some interesting comments in this interview by the arch romanticist McCreesh:

>>Authenticity is not remotely important to me as an end product.<<

>>The only authenticity is to try and create the same emotional frisson that the performer might have heard.<<

>>We love to look at Bach as this great romantic revolutionary writing marvelous music which nobody understood, when really Bach's music is as much a product of its time as anybody's. And it was only possible because he was working in an environment of the most extraordinary religious interest and development. Far from the Leipzigers being crusty and uninterested and unappreciative of Bach, he was very much in the right place at the right time--and I'm sure that's why he stayed in Leipzig for so long, in spite of the practical problems there.<< [Here McCreesh seems to be blissfully unaware of Bach’s numerous attempts to leave Leipzig.]

Jeremy Thomas wrote (March 25, 2003):
Ehud Shiloni wrote:
< P.S. TT on 2CD's: 2:41:32 >
That's only 5˝ mins. shorter than Gardiner on 3 CDs. So it doesn't appear too rushed (which I wondered about).

Piotr Jaworski wrote (March 25, 2003):
[To Ehud Shiloni] I'm so pleased reading your comments on this recording! The sort of 'impact' it had on you reminds me mine a lot!

Pleased even more because some of my fellow countrymen from BRL already expressed their serious doubts and concerns about this effort. While I'm not totally enthusiastic about this performance (yeah.... probably McCreesh could find better soloists - I also do not belong to the rapidly expanding Kozena Circle!). But as far as JSB OVPP recordings are concerned - I already have my top-three completed - B minor Mass (BWV 232) by Rifkin, Cantatas by Cantus Cöln and this SMP by McCreesh.The time will only show if this newcomer will beat the though competition of Gardiners, Suzukis, Herreweghes and Harnoncourts .... most my comparative listenings gave me really fresh look and judgement on my own preferences here. Telling more - re-defined them in some sense
....
I look very much forward to exchange more views about this spectacular recording.

PS. I share your assesment of the interpretation of the "Sind Blitze..." choir - most adequate - IMO - from those recordings I know.

Matthew Westphal wrote (March 25, 2003):
Tom Braatz says:
>>> With the ongoing discussion of this recording, it might be of interest to others to read, if they have not already done so, Matthew Westphal's interview with McCreesh: Amazon.com <<<
Gee, thanks for the plug, Tom!

There's actually a somewhat more recent interview I did with McCreesh at andante.com: http://www.andante.com/article/article.cfm?id=18169

Piotr says:
>>> Pleased even more because some of my fellow countrymen from BRL already expressed their serious doubts and concerns about this effort. <<<
What are those doubts and concerns?

Matthew Westphal wrote (March 25, 2003):
Tom B. says:
>>> [McCreesh] Far from the Leipzigers being crusty and uninterested and unappreciative of Bach, he was very much in the right place at the right time-- and I'm sure that's why he stayed in Leipzig for so long, in spite of the practical problems there.<< [Here McCreesh seems to be blissfully unaware of Bach's numerous attempts to leave Leipzig.] <<<
Wouldn't it be a reasonable statement to say that Bach was "in the right place at the right time" for at least his first few years in Leipzig? I had always understood that his first few years were a great success (which was probably why he worked so hard churning out cantatas and other sacred works).

Piotr Jaworski wrote (March 25, 2003):
[To Matthew Westphal] Among the few reasons that the so called "Polish voice" get silenced on BRL, language was the key one. I'm definitely the one who can't express every thought in English as desired.

Since, luckily, I was the only one - Polish subscribers to BRL decided to create their own "Polish clone of BRL". In case none will present his views directly here, I promise to do that ... in reasonable time.

Ehud Shiloni wrote (March 27, 2003):
[To Piotr Jaworski] I wish to share with you more thoughts on this recording, and this time – my impressionistic, strictly personal, view of the choral fantasia "Oh, Mensch, Bewein dein Sunde Gross".

[WARNING: Not for the musicologists among us or for the faint of heart!].

Here it goes:

Of the three large chorus movements of the SMP, "Oh, Mensch" had always appeared to me as the "poor cousin" of the other two: "Wir Setzen" - possibly the most emotionally compelling of all of Bach's choral writing, and the magnificent "Kommt, ihr Tochter" with its incredible atmosphere of a mixture of tragedy and hope. By saying this I mean that it had never left an unerasable memory in my mind after any of the multitude of listening instances to the SMP.

"Never" - that is until this week and the McCreesh "revelation".

Initially, when the McCreesh singers first enter with "Oh, Mensch", my "internal ear" cringed at the onslaught of scattered, individual voices, against my "cache memory" of the usual choir sound always associated with this movement. But the cringing soon just melted away, and gave way to astonishment, joy, and an emotional impact which grew stronger as the movement progressed.

And suddenly, it dawned on me:
Instead of hearing a CHOIR singing, I was hearing PEOPLE singing!

It was such a clear eye [and "ear"] opener for me. The audio image of the CHOIR sound is not something one comes across in the ordinary day to day affairs. Beautifull as this sound may be, and although produced by humans, it comes from a different place and not from the range of normal human encounters. Hearing McCreesh singers perform this familiar movement, I realized that the CHOIR sound has elements which are in a way mechanical or even artificial, casting a thin veil of detachment on its human source, while this performance was being sung by a group of INDIVIDUALS, each of whom was present as a PERSON.

As the movement progressed, the spell grew stronger, and my excitement deeper, and when the movement was over, my hand went straight to the "repeat" button. I began to notice effects which I never noticed before, and my involvement became more and more intense. By the time the "repeat" came to an end, "Oh, Mensch" was no longer the "poor cousin" of the past, and had become an unerasable imprint in my mind, alongside it's two venerable "relatives".

I don’t know much about musicology or about music making, or about how things "should" be performed, but I just want to thank McCreesh for that wonder of PEOPLE singing, and I hope that this emotional post did not bother the rest of you guys too much....;-)

P.S. Matthew - thanks for the illuminating McCreesh interview!

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 27, 2003):
[To Ehud Shiloni] Beautiful description, Ehud!

I went to: Amazon.com
eager to hear the sample of this movement, but unfortunately it runs out DURING the first sung note!

And, if this music of the SMP ever doesn't affect us emotionally, it's not being performed well. :) That's how it "should" be performed: with such a strong Affekt that the listener resonates with it, experiences it internally. Anything less than that, anything less than the "mixture of tragedy and hope", is merely pretty sounds.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 27, 2003):
And, according to those samples, McCreesh also does outstandingly well at one of my favorite spots: the opening of the aria "Sehet, Jesus hat die Hand". That is, he allows it to sound like squawking chickens (which is what Bach is illustrating there) in the oboes da caccia, instead of smoothing it over. Brilliant! ("ihr verlassnen Kuechlein" [Kueklein] - 'you forsaken little chicks', the disciples without a leader)

Santu de Silva wrote (March 27, 2003):
[To Ehud Shiloni] Question: How does McCreesh deal with the so-called "ripieno trebles"? Does he use one or two, boys, children, or a single adult soprano voice? This choice would strongly affect the overall effect of this number [O Mensch, bewein...]

Arch, for whom "O Mensch" is a favorite"

Michael Carvin wrote (March 29, 2003):
[To Ehud Shiloni] The "one voice per part" (OVPP) aspect is quite important. In a Gramophone advertisement, DG claims to have issued the first OVPP S:t Matthew passion. This is not quite correct. There is a Koch/Schwann recording (Jeffrey Thomas).

Has anyone been able to compare the two OVPP recordings?

Riccardo Nughes wrote (March 29, 2003):
The "one voice per part" (OVPP) aspect is quite important. In a Gramophone advertisement, DG claims to have issued the first OVPP S:t Matthew passion. This is not quite correct. There is a Koch/Schwann recordin(Jeffrey Thomas). Actually, featuring 15 singers, this is "almost" OVPP.

Michael Carvin wrote (March 29, 2003):
[To Riccardo Nughes] Oh, my ... Neither the first effort, nor strictly one-voice-per-part! DG and I stand corrected.

Aryeh Oron wrote (March 29, 2003):
[To Michael Carvin & Riccardo Nughes] The first to perform SMP OVPP (in modern times) was, of course, Joshua Rifkin, back in 1985. There is a nice description of that performance in the article about SMP by Teri Noel Towe. See:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/SMP-TNT.htm
According to the article the performance was also recorded for the radio, but it has never been issued in recorded form.

So far, I have listened to McCreesh SMP only once. First impression: this rendition is very weak on the dramatic aspect. I do not think that it is due to the OVPP approach. If you read Towe's article, you will easily realise what is missing from McCreesh's recording. However, Deborah York is excellent and moving and Mark Padmore is a good Evangelist, if not up to the best of them (Haefliger, Schreier, etc.). The other vocal soloists are not as impressive.

And now back to Cantata BWV 58.

Uri Golomb wrote (March 29, 2003):
[To Michael Carvin] Record companies do sometimes falsely advertise "first-evers", but I think this time DGG got it right: the McCreesh is indeed the first OVPP SMP. And if there is a precedent, then Thomas is not it.

According to the list in his liner notes, Jeffrey Thomas employs ten soloists (four in each chorus, plus William Sharp as Christus and Thomas himself as Evangelist) and 19 choristers (3-3-2-2 in Chorus 1, 3-2-3-1 in chorus 2) -- not counting the unnumbered members of the Paulist Boy Choristers of California, who do the soprano-in-ripieno.

As for McCreesh: I haven't heard it yet -- but I have seen the booklet, and I attended the concerts which preceded it. AFAIK, he employs nine singers -- eight for the bulk of the work (i.e., four in each chorus), and one extra for the soprano-in-ripieno. Which menas that it is strictly OVPP. (In the concert I attended, there wasn't even a soprano-in-ripieno -- the chorale was played, but not sung).

I really enjoyed Ehud Shiloni's description of McCreesh's "O Mensch" (which, incidentally, would be two-per-part even in McCreesh's version -- but with the two singers of each part standing, not next to each other, but at opposite ends; the sound might therefore not be as cohesive as in a standard double-chorus arrangement, which would account for the effect Ehud describes). I do not recall having the same thrill specifically in that movement at McCreesh's concerts -- but I did respond in a very similar way to the effect of McCreesh's OVPP forces in "O Schmerz/Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen", and in the final chorus (especially in the middle section). When I get the recording -- and sooner or later I will get it -- I might start with "O Mensch"...

Michael Carvin wrote (March 29, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] Quite so. Coming to think of it, there also was a Rifkin performance at the BBC Albert Hall Proms circa 1984-1985. What about squeezing a few arms at the BBC to issue it on CD ... ? ;-)

Aryeh: Do you think that a lack in dramatic impact has something to do with the very (but not uniquely) fast tempos adopted by McCreesh and friends?

Michael Carvin wrote (March 29, 2003):
[To Uri Golomb] Well, well, well. The definition issue of "one-voice-per-part" appears to be a little complicated!

Riccardo Nughes wrote (March 30, 2003):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< So far, I have listened to McCreesh SMP only once. First impression: this rendition is very weak on the dramatic aspect. >
Sorry Aryeh, but I have to disagree :) Especially in the Zweiter Teil there is, IMO, an exceptional and ethereal tension who pervades the rendering of most arias. My greatest regret is the missing of a "true" German singing even if the singers'diction is fine without rilevant errors.

However I think this is a great recording who just entered my Top 5 (FWIW obviously!).

Just some thoughts after 4 listenings :)

Piotr Jaworski wrote (March 31, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] Sorry.... but I couldn't ....... :-(

Not only "easily", but generally - after reading Teri's article I really couldn't realise "what is missing" in McCreesh recording. On the other hand - how could you came to such findings after just ONE listening ...(?)

I'd never say that McCreesh is "very (!) weak on the dramatic aspect". Excluding some solo parts I really find as insufficiently 'dramatic'; I found the overall performance as one of the most interesting - taking only 'dramatic factor' into account.

Could you, please, before Teri will send us his own assessment of McCreesh effort - give us your own interpretation ? I feel somehow confused ....

Ehud Shiloni wrote (March 31, 2003):
[To Santu de Silva] Soprano in ripieno: Ulla Munch.

No details about this singer, and my ears are not sufficiently discerning, but I dare suggest an adult voice.

Ulla Munch is not listed on Aryeh's Cantatas Site either, but Google says she sings Alto[!] on some Ars Nova recordings.

Ehud Shiloni wrote (March 31, 2003):
And here is a link with her photo:
http://www.sokkelundsangkor.dk/dansk/messias2002.php3

Can't read a word, but I hope that helps....

Santu De Silva wrote (March 31, 2003):
I asked: Question:
<< How does McCreesh deal with the so-called "ripieno trebles"? Does he use one or two, boys, children, or a single adult soprano voice? This choice would strongly affect the overall effect of this number [O Mensch, bewein...] >>
Ehud Shiloni replies:
< Soprano in ripieno: Ulla Munch.
No details about this singer, and my ears are not sufficiently discerning, but I dare suggest an adult voice. >
Oh man, I really need to hear this. I anticipate that the O Mensch number will sound poor. While I am not a die-hard anti-OVPP person, these soprano-in-ripieno instances are an exception. I have no problem with one singer per part for each half of the double chorus, but the ripieno must contain (AFAIAC) at LEAST two! I need to hear that "wave" between the voices.

Arch
123456789012345678901234567890123456789012345678901234567890123456789

 

Continue on Part 2

Matthäus-Passion BWV 244: Details
Recordings: 1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019 | Individual Movements
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | 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 - L. Bernstein | BWV 244 - F. Brüggen | BWV 244 - J. Butt | BWV 244 - R. Chailly | BWV 244 - S. Cleobury | BWV 244 - J. Daus | BWV 244 - D. Fasolis | BWV 244 - W. Furtwängler | BWV 244 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 244 - W. Gönnenwein | BWV 244 - P. Goodwin | BWV 244 - E.z. Guttenberg | BWV 244 - N. Harnoncourt | BWV 244 - P. Herreweghe | BWV 244 - R. Jacques | BWV 244 - H.v. Karajan | BWV 244 - O. Klemperer | BWV 244 - T. Koopman | BWV 244 - S. Koussevitzky | BWV 244 - S. Kuijken | BWV 244 - F. Lehmann | BWV 244 - G. Leonhardt | BWV 244 - P.J. Leusink | BWV 244 - E.&R. Mauersberger | BWV 244 - H. Max | BWV 244 - P. McCreesh | BWV 244 - W. Mengelberg | BWV 244 - K. Münchinger | BWV 244 - R. Norrington | BWV 244 - G. Oberfrank | BWV 244 - S. Ozawa | BWV 244 - A. Parrott | BWV 244 - G. Ramin | BWV 244 - S. Rattlr | BWV 244 - K. Richter | BWV 244 - H. Rilling | BWV 244 - H.J. Rotzsch | BWV 244 - H. Scherchen | BWV 244 - G. Solti | BWV 244 - C. Spering | BWV 244 - M. Suzuki | BWV 244 - J.v. Veldhoven | BWV 244 - B. Walter | BWV 244 - F. Werner | BWV 244 - M. Wöldike
Articles:
Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244 [T.N. Towe] | Two Easter St. Matthew Passions (Plus One) [U. Golomb] | St. Matthew Passion from Harnoncourt [D. Satz] | The Passion according to Saint Matthew BWV 244 [J. Rifkin] | The Relationship between BWV 244a (Trauermusik) and BWV 244b (SMP Frühfassung) [T. Braatz] | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 - Early History (A Selective, Annotated Bibliography) [W. Hoffman] | Spiritual Sources of Bach's St. Matthew Passion [W. Hoffman] | Bach and the "Great Passion" [D.G. Lebut Jr.] | The Genesis of Bach's `Great Passion': 1724-29 [W. Hoffman] | Early Performances of Bach's SMP [T. Braatz]

Paul McCeesh: Short Biography | Gabrieli Consort & Players | Recordings | General Discussions
Individual Recordings:
Epiphany Mass – McCreesh | BWV 243 & BWV 249 - McCreesh | BWV 244 - McCreesh | BWV 245 - McCreesh

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

Introduction | Cantatas | Other Vocal | Instrumental | Performers | General Topics | Articles | Books | Movies | New
Biographies | Texts & Translations | Scores | References | Commentaries | Music | Concerts | Festivals | Tour | Art & Memorabilia
Chorale Texts | Chorale Melodies | Lutheran Church Year | Readings | Poets & Composers | Arrangements & Transcriptions
Search Website | Search Works/Movements | Terms & Abbreviations | Copyright | How to contribute | Sitemap | Links



 

Back to the Top


Last update: ýFebruary 9, 2008 ý11:46:39