Sir John Eliot Gardiner Leads a Tremendous Performance of the St Matthew Passion

28/03/2016

Bach, St Matthew Passion: Mark Padmore (Evangelist); Stephan Loges (Christus); Soloists; Trinity Boys’ Choir; Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists/Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Barbican Hall, London, 26.3.2016. (CC)

Back in 2014, Mark Padmore was the Evangelist for Sir Simon Rattle’s staging of the St Matthew Passion at the Proms (see review).  Another Knight of the Realm headed this particular Passion, and was quite sure, in his supplied programme note (excerpted from his recent book Music in the Castle of Heaven: A Portrait of Johann Sebastian Bach) that  such stage trickery is redundant: Gardiner writes, “Give me a bare stage (not a picture frame) peopled with choristers freed from their scores and soloists interacting with the obbligato players, and, I believe, the audience’s imagination can fill it with images far more vivid than any scene painter or stage director can provide”. Gardiner’s performance was remarkable in his sheer grasp of Bach’s huge musical canvas, from the most dramatic moments to the sorrow it painted in the accompaniment to Jonathan Sells’ aria, “Mache dich, Mein Herze, rein”

A lot of thought had gone into presentation, both in placement of soloists (with both the Evangelist and Christ joining the chorus for the concluding choruses of each part) and the fact that the chorus sang from memory. It was surprising then that there was one somewhat off-putting facet: the translation used in the surtitles was different from that offered in the programme, sometimes only marginally, sometimes more so. Such a disjunction wrests the listener from Bach’s ongoing meditation on the Jesus story.

These are but small quibbles in the context of such a marvellous performance, though. It is clear Gardiner knows and lives every tiny bit of this huge score, delineating complex choral passages as easily as he provided the most sensitive support for arias. As the Evangelist, Mark Padmore sang beautifully, all the while sounding unearthly wise. Concerned narrator might be an apt description of his stance; his voice, too, seems infinitely supple, and all recitatives were so wonderfully shaped; his top range positively glistened. His Christus was Stephan Loges, who despite having the range was not quite in the same league, a touch bland – dare I say anonymous? – in comparison.

Soprano Hannah Morrison’s bright, pure voice illumined each and every one of her arias; from “Blute nur”, it was clear that here is a top-rank soloist, and in Part II’s “Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben”, her voice perfectly matched the flute obbligato. Alto Eleanor Minney was her musical equal, her “Erbarme dich” beautifully tender.

Countertenor Reginald Mobley was a terrific soloist, his “Du lieber Heiland du …Buss’ und Reu’” from Part I splendidly pure, his voice the perfect match for the obbligato pairing of two flutes. In Part II, he had all the vocal strength for “Ach, Golgotha, unsel’ges Golgotha” and superb trills in the ensuing “Sehet! Sehet, Jesus hat die Hand”. As Judas, Jonathan Sells excelled, while Alex Ashworth was a very strong Peter. A true bass, Nicolas Mogg’s “Der Heiland fällt … Gerne will ich mich bequemen” was beautifully smooth, his slurs expertly managed. If alto Clare Wilkinson was on occasion a tad weak, her contributions were nonetheless heartfelt; Alex Riches as the High Priest, was perhaps better at showing anger in his facial expressions than he was at conveying it via music.

Poor Hugo Hymas did not get a mention as a soloist in the Barbican programme (he did in an insert handed over as a postscriptum though); he deserves extra praise, not omission, as his aria “Geduld, Geduld” was strong indeed; Reiko Ichise’s gamba obbligato was memorable for its sheer enthusiasm.

The Monteverdi Choir triumphed, the chorales a masterpiece of sculpted, heartfelt beauty, yet there was huge drama on occasion also.

This was a tremendous performance.

Colin Clarke

 

Print Friendly

Comments

Comments are closed.

Recent Reviews

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Spitalfields Music Festival 2017 in December __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018 Lucerne Summer Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! World Premiere of The Nutcracker and I, by Alexandra Dariescu in December at Milton Court __________________________________
  • NEW! Hampstead Garden Opera Bring The Enchanted Pig to Highgate in November __________________________________
  • NEW! Leeds Lieder’s Forthcoming Schubert Song Series in Leeds and Sheffield __________________________________
  • NEW! Svetlana Zakharova and Bolshoi Stars Bring Amore to the London Coliseum in November __________________________________
  • NEW! Tom Green and Carol Ann Duffy’s The World’s Wife Premieres on 15 October in Cardiff __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Ballet’s 2017 – 2018 Autumn/Winter Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Contemporary Music from Manchester’s Psappha in 2017-18 __________________________________
  • NEW! I Musicanti’s ‘Alexandra and the Russians’ at St Johns Smith Square, 2017-18 __________________________________
  • NEW! Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov’s Return to London in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! St John’s Smith Square announces its 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Pierre Boulez Saal’s 2017/18 Season in Berlin __________________________________
  • NEW! Birmingham and Beyond: Ex Cathedra in 2017/18 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Glyndebourne Opera Cup and Glyndebourne in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! Carly Paoli is ‘Singing My Dreams’ at the Cadogan Hall in February 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! A Composer Speaks Up for the Environment: An Interview with Margaret Brouwer __________________________________
  • NEW! Twelve Years of Celebrating Malcolm Arnold in Northampton __________________________________
  • NEW! What is the Critic’s Job? A Review of A. O. Scott’s Recent Book __________________________________
  • NEW! English Music Festival in Yorkshire Lifts the Lid Off an English Treasury __________________________________
  • NEW! A FULLY STAGED PILGRIM’S PROGRESS IN ORLEANS, MA __________________________________
  • NEW! JIŘÍ BĔLOHLÁVEK (1946-2017) AND THE CZECH CONDUCTING LEGACY __________________________________
  • NEW! JUSTIN DOYLE DISCUSSES MONTEVERDI WITH MARK BERRY __________________________________
  • NEW! Katie Lowe Wins the 2017 Elizabeth Connell Prize __________________________________
  • NEW! ITINÉRAIRE BAROQUE 2017: TON KOOPMAN TALKS TO COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House in Mumbai is Restored to its Former Glory __________________________________
  • NEW! iSING! – International Young Artists Festival in Suzhou, China __________________________________
  • NEW! A Riveting Kokoschka’s Doll from Sir John Tomlinson and Counterpoise __________________________________
  • NEW! ANGELA BROWNRIDGE IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month

    Search S&H