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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

Johannes-Passsion BWV 245

Conducted by Pieter Jan Leusink

V-4

J.S. Bach: Johannes Passion

Johannes-Passion BWV 245

Pieter Jan Leusink

Holland Boys Choir / Netherlands Bach Collegium

Tenor [Evangelist]: Marcel Beekman; Bass [Christ]: Robbert Muuse; Soprano: Marjon Strijk; Alto: Sytse Buwalda; Bass: Bas Ramselaar; Tenor: Martinus Leusink

Brillian Classics

Jan 2001

2-CD / TT: 105:47

Recorded at Grote Kerk, Elburg, Holland.
Buy this album at: Amazon.com

Inf- new SJP recording

Kirk McElhearn wrote (February 11, 2002):
Today I received from Brilliant Classics a new SJP recording by Pieter Jan Leusink and the Holland Boys Choir and Netherlands Bach Collegium. No comments yet, since I haven't listened to it, but I thought I would mention it. The soloists are:

Marcel Beekman, evangelist
Robbert Muuse, Christ
Marjon Strije, soprano
Syste Buwalda, alto
Bas Ramselaar, bass
Martinus Leusink, tenor

I'll post a review when I get to it.

 

Review St. John Passion

Kirk McElhearn wrote (March 13, 2002):
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH (1685-1750)

St. John Passion [105.47]

Marcel Beekman, Tenor (Evangelist)
Robert Muuse, Baritone (Christ)
Marjon Strijk, Soprano
Bas Ramselaar, Bass
Syste Buwalda, Alto
Martinus Leusink, Tenor

Holland Boys Choir, Netherlands Bach Collegium, Pieter Jan Leusink

Rec: January 2001, Grote Kerk Elburg
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 99795 [105.47]

Jan Pieter Leusink, who recorded an excellent series of Bach’s sacred cantatas for Brilliant Classics, here presents his take on the St. John Passion, one of Bach¹s two remaining passions. The St. John is the shorter of the two, at around two hours long, and is musically as great and intense as the more famous St. Matthew Passion. Leusink gives this work a lot of energy, and relatively fast tempi, presenting not a stark work but one with great vigour. Musically, this recording has great transparency, with a small orchestra well-recorded.

Bach’s two passions, as well as his masses, depend greatly on choirs. In their opening movements, the choir rings out with energy and emotion, and it is essential that the tone be established from the beginning. Unfortunately, the otherwise excellent Holland Boys Choir gives this work too much of a high sound - the choir sounds as though it is top-heavy. The higher range voices sound clearly, but the middle and lower ranges are attenuated. It is hard to tell if it is the sound of the church or the recording itself, but there seems to be a dimension missing in the larger choral movements. The smaller choral parts, those which merely reproduce hymns, sound quite good - in these parts, the choral texture is excellent. It sounds as though the higher voices are absent, or, at least, fewer are used.

This recording has some very good points, however. Evangelist Marcel Beekman is excellent, and he definitely joins the ranks of those rare singers who can give the appropriate feeling and emotion to this role. Syste Buwalda, whose performances in Jan Pieter Leusink¹s cantata series, ranged from good to poor, is acceptable here. His voice sounds clear and rich, and his energy is present. Soprano Marjon Strijk, a singer whose voice sounds almost boyish at times, is good, but some of her singing is weak. In one of Bach’s finest arias, Zerfleisse, mein Herze, she lacks the force and energy necessary to give this melody the felling it calls for.

One negative comment about the notes - while they include the text of the passion (and nothing more), this is unfortunately only in German.

This is a good recording of one of Bach¹s finest vocal works, though the choir disappoints in the large movements, which is where the most emotion is in this work. Given its budget price, it is a worthy purchase, although there are better recordings of this work (especially the amazing recording by Suzuki, on Bis). Those seeking strong and moving choral parts will be disappointed by this, though the overall tone of the work is good.

Pete Blue wrote (March 14, 2002):
[To Kirk McElhearn] Your thoughtful review of the Leusink SJP has the singular merit of all your reviews: no special pleading. I and most posters on this List are guilty of overpraising our favorite Bach recordings and bashing competitors' ones. However, it appears that there is a consensus on this List, which is otherwise about as easy to achieve as peace in the Middle East, as to the supremacy of the Suzuki SJP. So this seems the right occasion to voice my plea for help in finding the best SJP for me.

I have yet to hear a recording of the SJP that is "musically as great and intense" as the SMP, or at least as immediately appealing. My response has always been more one of admiration than the gut-wrenching experience I seek, but I recognize this as my problem, not Bach's or the List's. My listening to recordings of this work has been spotty. I own just two sets: the old Forster with Wunderlich on LP, and Herreweghe I. Neither blows me away. I was a little spoiled by the one live performance of the SJP I attended, in the 80s in a Manhattan church, excitingly conducted by Anthony Newman (whose recordings I don't care for) and with a then unknown and fantastically good Evangelist: Jeffrey Thomas. I've heard Gardiner's recording and sound samples of Gunther Ramin's 1954 recorded-live version; I was more impressed by the latter than the former. I have not heard the Slowik/Smithsonian, which has been highly praised by the few that know it, or the new Herreweghe. I dimly remember Karl Richter's as being close, but no cigar.

I want an SJP experience that will be so emotionally gripping AND so aurally beautiful that it will move me to tears. Is that the Suzuki?

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 14, 2002):
< Pete Blue wrote:
< (...) I have not heard the Slowik/Smithsonian, which has been highly praised by the few that know it, or the new Herreweghe. I dimly remember Karl Richter's as being close, but no cigar.
I want an SJP experience that will be so emotionally gripping AND so aurally beautiful that it will move me to tears. Is that the Suzuki? >
I agree with you, Pete. If there were some way to make a spiritual and musical composite of the Slowik, Goodman/Cleobury, both Herreweghes, the Scherchen, and a bit of the early Harnoncourt, we'd really have something. Maybe a conductor who was a composite of Herreweghe, Mengelberg, Casals, Scherchen, Furtwangler, and Parrott (what a combination!).

Meanwhile we mere mortals have to content ourselves with the glimpses, like Casals conducting BWV 1060, and Webern conducting the Berg concerto, and Scherchen's raggedy but terrifying "Dies irae" in the Mozart Requiem, Wilbert Hazelzet's solo Bach, and Deller's "Agnus Dei" (B Minor Mass) that he threw in as a solo to fill up the cantata 54/170 album.

The Slowik and Scherchen SJPs are worth having, in any case. I don't know how available the Scherchen is currently, but I have it in the old MCA Double Decker cheapo series.

I'm curious about the Suzuki, too.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (March 14, 2002):
Pete Blue wrote:
< Your thoughtful review of the Leusink SJP has the singular merit of all your reviews: no special pleading. I and most posters on this List are guilty of overpraising our favorite Bach recordings and bashing competitors' ones. However, it appears that there is a consensus on this List, which is otherwise about as easy to achieve as peace in the Middle East, as to the supremacy of the Suzuki SJP. So thseems the right occasion to voice my plea for help in finding the best SJP for me. >
I see no reason to "bash competitors", but the goal of CD reviews is to judge a work on its merits and compare it to others. In this case, were there not a Suzuki or Herreweghe to compare with I would still have said the same things. I was very disappointed by the choir, far less effective than other Leusink recordings and other recordings by the same choir.

< I want an SJP experience that will be so emotionally gripping AND so aurally beautiful that it will move me to tears. Is that the Suzuki? >
I saw the Suzuki on TV the other day - I didn't catch the entire work, just the second half, but it was close to moving me to tears. There is a dramatic intensity that surprises, yet that seems so just for the work.

Pete Blue wrote (March 14, 2002):
[To Kirk McElhearn] Thank you for SJP response. Brad, also. I will purchase Suzuki and/or Slowik (Scherchen seems to be NLA, not just NCUBA (Not Completely Unavailable But Almost) like most CDs on my Wish List), wife permitting.

Charles Francis wrote (March 14, 2002):
[To Pete Blue] I don't know the Suzuki performance, so can't comment. My favourite JP of the ones I do know, however, is the 1965 version conducted by Hans Gillesberger with the Wiener Sängerknaben and the Concentus musicus Wien. For marketing reasons, Teldec ran the CD version under the 'Harnoncourt' brand before pulling it in favour of a real Harnoncourt performance using mixed choir and soloists (I don't know if this unfortunate deletion was due to complaints about misleading branding or not). Gillesberger's conducting is superb, and being a 1965 recording it predates the 'HIP' wave that affected later recordings. Harnoncourt's role is mercifully restrained and damage is confined to the recitatives. But this remains, overall, a wonderful recording directed by a marvellous and little known conductor, Hans Gillisberger.

Pete Blue wrote (March 14, 2002):
[To Charles Francis] Thank you, Charles, I will audition it, especially since the recommendation comes from a fellow Gaehler-admirer! I adore my Gillesberger monaural (monaural only?) Haydn Masses, still unmatched IMO.

Grzegorz Lodyga wrote (March 14, 2002):
Charles wrote about: < "marvellous and little known conductor, Hans Gillisberger.>
Are you a "fan" of Hans Gillesberger ? Could you write any more about him and his recordings?

 

St John Passion on Brilliant Classics

Johan van Veen wrote (March 20, 2002):
Bach (JS): St John Passion (BWV 245)
Marjon Strijk (soprano), Sytse Buwalda (alto), Marcel Beekman (Ev), Martinus Leusink (tenor), Robbert Muusse (Chr), Bas Ramselaar (bass)
Holland Boys Choir, Netherlands Bach Collegium
Dir: Pieter Jan Leusink
rec: Jan. 2001, Elburg (Neth), Grote Kerk
Brilliant Classics - 99795 (2 CDs; 51'15"/54'32")

The Holland Boys Choir has been involved in a major project: the recording of all sacred cantatas by Bach as part of the Bach-Edition of Brilliant Classics. From an artistic point of view, this wasn't a great success. But this project - and in particular the fact that all recordings had to be made within one year - has taken its toll from this choir. It used to be quite a good choir, in particular when it had its original name, "Stadsknapenkoor Elburg", referring to the city where it is based. The sound of the choir was full and strong in all sections. Although its singing technique is based on the British cathedral tradition, which makes it less suitable for interpreting German baroque music, its first recording of Bach's St Matthew Passion wasn't bad at all. That was 1992. In comparison this recording of the St John Passion from almost ten years later comes as a shock. Well, not quite. Those who know the latest volumes in the cantata series saw it coming. Even then the quality of the choir had seriously deteriorated. Therefore, listening to this recording I wasn't totally surprised, but still amazed by the apalling quality of the choir right now. I simply don't understand how anyone can be satisfied with this performance. The choir is completely out of balance: the trebles are far too dominating, and they seem not to be able to do anything else than shout. They push the sounds out of their mouths, and can't sing the words properly. The male altos produce a consistent pretty heavy vibrato, the singing of the tenors and basses is rude and unpolished. And if that is not bad enough: there is no ensemble singing here: the characteristics of the sections within the choir are so different that this is more like singing apart together. Need I add that the German pronunciation is quite awful sometimes ("Ruht woll", for instance)?

The soloists can't save the performance. Not only because the role of the choir in this work is too important, but also because they don't have enough qualities of their own. Most of the time the singing of the soloists seems uninvolved, even boring. Marcel Beekman has a nice voice, but completely fails to tell the story. He just sings the notes, precisely as they are written. No variation in rhythm, following the rhythm of the text, nor any dynamic accents. The same is true for Robbert Muusse, who doesn't have the right voice for the part of Jesus, and who completely lacks the necessary authority. Marjon Strijk seems not to know what she is singing about, and at the end of the aria "Zerfließe, mein Herze" she produces a serious error, which hasn't been corrected - unacceptable. The tenor arias go by almost unnoticed, being sung with a total lack of expression. Sytse Buwalda is one of the two, who give a convincing performance, although "Von den Stricken" is a little disappointing - but "Es ist vollbracht" is quite good. Bas Ramselaar is coming out on top with some moving contributions, in particular in the aria "Mein teurer Heiland". There the choir needs to sing quietly, therefore it can't destroy the whole thing. Buwalda and Ramselaar are also the only singers who produce idiomatic German, the others sound like schoolboys, whom the teacher just told how to pronunciate German correctly.

There isn't a lot to say about the orchestra - playing on period instruments - , apart from the fact that, the qualities of the individual players notwithstanding, it is uninteresting and colourless. This is one of the worst recordings of Bach's St John Passion I have ever heard. It is sad that the wish of the conductor to put his choir on the map has driven him to destroy its once impressive qualities.

Johannes-Passion BWV 245: Details
Recordings:
1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019 | Sung in English | Individual Movements
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6
Systematic Discussions:
Part 1: Mvts. 1-7 | Part 2: Mvts. 6-14 | Part 3: Mvts. 15-20 | Part 4: Mvts. 21-26 | Part 5: Mvts. 27-32 | Part 6: Mvts. 36-40 | Part 7: Summary
Individual Recordings:
BWV 245 - F. Brüggen | BWV 245 - S. Cleobury | BWV 245 - P. Dombrecht | BWV 245 - D, Fasolis | BWV 245 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 245 - E.z. Guttenberg | BWV 245 - N. Harnoncourt-H. Gillesberger | BWV 245 - P. Herreweghe | BWV 245 - E. Higginbottom | BWV 245 - E. Jochum | BWV 245 - E. Kleiber | BWV 245 - P.J. Leusink | BWV 245 - H. Max | BWV 245 - P. McCreesh | BWV 245 - H. Münch | BWV 245 - P. Neumann | BWV 245 - A. Parrott | BWV 245 - P. Pickett | BWV 245 - K. Richter | BWV 245 - H. Rilling | BWV 245 - P. Schreier | BWV 245 - R. Shaw | BWV 245 - K. Slowik | BWV 245 - M. Suzuki | BWV 245 - J.v. Veldhoven
Articles:
Saint John Passion, BWV 245 [T.N. Towe] | The Passion of Saint John, BWV 245 [M. Steinberg] | St. John Passion [A. Wong & N. Proctor] | The St. John Passion on stage [U. Golomb] | Literary Origins of Bach’s St. John Passion: 1704-1717 [W. Hoffman] | Bach’s Passion Pursuit [W. Hoffman]

Pieter Jan Leusink: Short Biography | Holland Boys Choir | Netherlands Bach Collegium
Recordings:
Part 1 | Part 2 | General Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
Individual Recordings:
Leusink - Vol.1&2 | Leusink - Vol.3&4 | BWV 244 - Leusink | BWV 245 - Leusink
Articles:
Interview with Pieter Jan Leusink | Interview with Frank Wakelkamp
Table of Recordings by BWV Number

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: ýApril 3, 2007 ý22:04:54