Harnoncourt stirs up the major emotions in Bach’s work, fusing the dramatic, touching and contemplative moments into a marvellously dense whole’ (Berliner Morgenpost)
Since it’s initial release in 2001, Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s recording of the Matthew Passion has come to be recognised as perhaps the essential recording of this repertoire. Reflecting the wealth of experience and insight gained since his first recording of the work for Telefunken Records over thirty years ago, Harnoncourt’s interpretation, from the very first bars, offers a new perspective on Bach’s magnificent work, and is significantly different from any existing commercial recording.
Harnoncourt is supported in the performance by his own ensemble, the Concentus Musicus Wien, and a large and distinguished line-up of internationally renowned soloists. The soprano and alto parts are taken by women, and the double chorus, each with its own continuo, reflects the changes made to Bach’s manuscript when he revised the work in 1736. The outstanding acoustics of Vienna’s then newly-restored Baroque Jesuit’s Church are captured faithfully on this recording.
“Harnoncourt’s revisitation presents a unique statement, one that can’t fail to make an impression… [he] neither dallies unduly with the chorales nor charges through them; they skilfully counterbalance the remarkably incandescent narrative of Pregardien’s Evangelist. The tenor shows a supreme attention to detail… and his dialogue with Matthias Goerne’s vital Christus is especially compelling… Harnoncourt leaves his mark with his unerring compassion at most of the critical points… In short, this is the most culturally alert reading in years and a truly original and illuminating experience.” (Gramophone Guide 2005 edition)
“This new version, recorded in 2000 [benefits] from an exceptionally strong and consistent team of soloists, has all necessary weight and intensity. Christoph Pregardien is… crisply expressive in his narration, with Matthias Goerne singing not just beautifully but movingly as Jesus. The Arnold Schoenberg Choir has rightly established the highest reputation among Central European choirs, here singing with power as well as freshness. Harnoncourt’s… is a consistently imaginative approach, giving concentration over the great span of this masterpiece, making this a leading contender among the many rival versions, recorded in clear, open sound. (Penguin Guide 2003/4 edition)