Philippe Herreweghe is widely considered to be one of the foremost Bach interpreters of our time. This four deluxe CD-Book collection is part of the Philippe herreweghe Bach Edition, and features key works from the Bach canon. Each set in the series is available at a very special low price and features packaging and liner-notes on a par with the best that harmonia mundi offers. These sets are a rare bargain and a must-have for collectors…
Philippe Herreweghe uses the second of Bach's four versions of the St. John Passion, the one from 1725, which substitutes some of the arias and the opening chorus, along with lesser changes. The result is somewhat more dramatic than the standard version, which Herreweghe recorded previously. Those familiar with the conductor's work will find his usual warmth, making the most of the lyric moments, but they'll also find greater sensitivity to rhythmic and dramatic thrust and a generally livelier approach. The singers are uniformly fine. Padmore is an unusually effective Evangelist, projecting the drama without undue overacting. Many will want this for Andreas Scholl's countertenor solos, which are first-rate, but the magnificent "Es ist vollbracht" will disappoint those familiar with the greater depth of renditions by contraltos like Maureen Forrester and Janet Baker. Bright-voiced soprano Sibylla Rubens is another attraction, singing with fervor, and the orchestra and chorus of the Collegium Vocale Ghent are outstanding. This attractively packaged set goes to the head of the class. –Dan Davis
Johann Sebastian Bach's monumental St. Matthew Passion was first performed on Good Friday in 1727 at the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig. It is the largest single composition Bach ever wrote, both in terms of length and in terms of instrumental and vocal forces. It requires two choruses, two orchestras, four vocal soloists for the arias and vocal soloists for each of the various character parts. Philippe Herreweghe's 1999 recording of Bach's masterpiece features a stellar cast and was a perennial catalog bestseller.
For the second time on the Phi label, Philippe Herreweghe presents four Bach cantatas written during the first year the composer spent in Leipzig. In relation to the repertoire composed in Weimar, the instrumentarium is enlarged to adapt to the size of the churches of Saint Thomas and Saint Nicholas. But, above all, the instrumental virtuosity is much greater, as are the vocal demands confronting the choirs and solo singers, trained at the time by Bach himself.