Bach: St John Passion (Sung in English)

Reviewed on Mon 12 Jun, 2017

Wholly authentic and immediate, John Jenkins’s eloquent New Novello Choral Edition is, in itself, something of a marvel, prompting richly characterised contributions from all concerned.

The first St John Passion in English in nearly half a century surpasses its venerable predecessor, Benjamin Britten’s 1971 Decca recording with Peter Pears. Less adrenalized than Marc Minkowski’s recent, German-sung Erato account with Les Musiciens du Louvre, its drama and emotional potency derive instead from the deeply felt, musically sublime and spiritually ardent performances marshalled with palpable intensity by David Temple. Wholly authentic and immediate, John Jenkins’s eloquent New Novello Choral Edition is, in itself, something of a marvel, prompting richly characterised contributions from all concerned. Robert Murray’s poetically alert Evangelist bests Minkowski’s Lothar Odinius and is markedly less arch and stilted than Pears for Britten. The heartfelt and direct Jesus of Ashley Riches is, appropriately, more human than Britten’s declamatory Gwynne Howell. The Bach Camerata play with idiomatic certainty and utter conviction, the 100-plus voices of the Crouch End Festival Chorus intensely fervent yet exquisitely nuanced. In a word: essential.
–Michael Quinn