Bach: St John Passion, BWV 245

Reviewed on Mon 28 Mar, 2016

Julian Prégardien (son of Christoph) is a believable Evangelist, sometimes reminding me, in his sincere declamations, of the great Karl Erb, while the work’s most humbling aria 'Es ist Vollbracht' – 'It is accomplished' – is sung with stunned solemnity by Ulrike Malotta

“Lord, our master, whose glory fills the whole earth, show us by your Passion that you, the true eternal Son of God, triumph even in the deepest humiliation.” Not words that you’ll find printed in the booklet for Peter Dijkstra’s superb new St John Passion – just the German text for the almost unbearably tense opening chorus 'Herr, unser Herrscher …', printed as sung. This is restless music, the crying woodwinds like arched, swollen veins, while the fast-paced interjections from the chorus heighten the drama. The choral singing is deft to the point of dancing (try tracks 13, 24, 26, 30 or [especially] 34 all on disc 2) or the lightness and transparency of the various chorales. Julian Prégardien (son of Christoph) is a believable Evangelist, sometimes reminding me, in his sincere declamations, of the great Karl Erb, while the work’s most humbling aria 'Es ist Vollbracht' – 'It is accomplished …', ie Jesus’s death (disc 2, track 38), is sung with stunned solemnity by Ulrike Malotta – the fast central section ‘Der Held aus Juda siegt mit Macht’ (‘The hero out of Judah conquers with Might’) arriving like a bolt out of the blue. Dijkstra and company allow the drama to unfold as if on the wings of a single, cathartic breath. It’s wonderful, and sonorously recorded to boot. German speakers may also be interested in a 72-minute documentary on the third CD, ‘Wege zur Musik [lanes to music]: Johann Sebastian Bach Johannes-Passion’.
–Rob Cowan