One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             




AmazonUK   AmazonUS

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 - 1750)
Passion According to St. John, BWV 245 (1724, rev. 1749) [108.49]
Gerd Türk, tenor; Midori Suzuki, soprano; Robin Blaze, counter-tenor; Chiyuki Urano, bass-baritone; Stephan MacLeod, bass.
Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
rec. 28 July 2000, Suntory Hall, Tokyo, Japan.
Video direction by Shokichi Amano
Notes in English, Deutsch, and Français. Complete track list. Menus in English and Deutsch. Subtitles in English, Deutsch, Français.
Sound 48kHz 16 bit PCM 2.0; Dolby Surround 5.1.; 16:9 anamorphic NTSC DVD 9 region 0 [all regions] Previews of other DVDs of Bach’s music [5.00]
An otherwise identical Region 1 encoded release from Image Entertainment is available in North America.
EUROARTS INVITATION 2050396 [117.00]

Comparison audio only recordings:
Hermann Scherchen, VSOO. MCA Westminster MCAD2 9804
Anthony Newman, Brandenburg Collegium Orchestra, Newport Classics NC 60015/1/2
I am the worst possible audience for this music.  I am not only not a Christian but I am vigorously unsympathetic to the blood-and-guts aspect of the Christian mythos represented by this work.  But I must tell you that whatever negative feelings I may have felt towards the subject, every reservation I attempted to raise was swept away by the power and drama of the music and the commitment of the performers.
I hope video director Shokichi Amano will forgive me when I say he has no imagination, and that I praise him for that.  Clearly he kept his eyes glued to the score and throughout the recording we were looking exactly where we would be looking if we were present in the hall.  There were no sunsets, no adorable children or lovely flowers, no abstract close-ups of musical instruments against colored spotlights.  We were simply there with the music, with the performers, seeing just what we wanted to see at every moment.  I hope Shokichi Amano has a long career in and directs many, many more DVD performances.
I’ve mentioned in my reviews that for the first hearing I generally put on a recording of an opera without even reading the synopsis and dare the music to grab me.  In this case I even walked out of the room so that I wouldn’t be distracted by the video images.  But I couldn’t break the spell of the music, I remained ensnared by it from beginning to end, and when it was over was sorry there was no more.
Video quality is brilliant and crisp and beautifully detailed, even in telephoto shots.  There is little enough color; the performers wear black and white and the wood tones from the instruments and the walls of the hall are the only relief. Masaaki Suzuki’s long white hair is at times as important as his hands in conveying his feelings to the performers.
All the soloists are excellent, but counter-tenor Robin Blaze should be especially praised.  His voice is strong, dramatic, secure and vividly colored.  Some may prefer a female alto in this role, but no male alto is likely ever to surpass this performance.  Tenor Gerd Türk should also be singled out for praise, for he, as the Evangelist, has the most to do and never for a moment slips from perfect beauty of tone and strength of commitment.
Soprano Midori Suzuki has some difficult moments in her aria “Zerfliesse mein Herze” which is placed cruelly high in her range and comes late in the long evening.  Julianne Baird, who sang such a beautiful Cantata No. 51 for Joshua Rifkin, does this aria superbly for Anthony Newman on his recording with the “Brandenburg Collegium Orchestra” made up of New York City’s finest early music players.  Phyllis Curtin taking the repeat in her recording of this aria for Hermann Scherchen shows the same thrilling power and endurance in her highest notes that made headlines when she first recorded the “dança” from the Villa-Lobos Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5.  Considering that it takes this level of big guns to score a bulls-eye on this extremely difficult aria, Midori Suzuki’s performance is in every way a worthy accomplishment.
The audience must have agreed with my appraisal as they produced a seven minute ovation and demanded five curtain calls.  I have not seen the DVDs of this music performed by Peter Schreier, or Karl Munchinger; these may equal, but I can’t believe they could surpass, this performance.
The packaging claims dts sound, however there are no dts tracks on this disk, nor on the North American region 1 release.  Excellent sound is obtained from the PCM tracks, using your surround-sound processor as you choose.
Paul Shoemaker


AmazonUK   AmazonUS


Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.