While Bach is well known for his St. Matthew Passion music, in some ways I prefer his St. John Passion compositions so here is my recommendation for the week. I usually include a review from Amazon as most reviewers have a better knowledge of music than I do.
“I resisted buying and then listening to this version of one of my favorite pieces of choral music. Why? Firstly, I already own 2 other fine versions and I thought that a translation into English from German would distort what Bach had wanted. I was wrong: if anything, the English language helped me get “into” the text more…and understand, perhaps, a bit more of what Bach wanted us to feel while listening. I also do not usually like the sound of a boy choir. Bach had written the work for boy choir, but most recordings (and live performances) use an adult female choir. In this recording, conductor Benjamin Britten chose to use the Wandsworth School Boys’ Choir and they are exemplary: their voices never get into that whiny treble we are used to hearing and their enunciation of the English language is beyond reproach. All of the soloists employed are stars in their own right and many of them had worked together with and for Britten before this recording. Peter Pears, of course, was Britten’s partner/muse/lover and he is superb as “Evangelist.” If you have ever heard Pears sing, you know that his quality is one that cannot be compared with anyone. He is a singular artist. Britten has melded this entire, difficult, gorgeous work of Bach’s into a very moving experience. The sound on this double CD set, recorded almost 30 years ago, is bright and full and rich. Do yourself a favor and buy this sublime music in this wonderful performance. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!”
A second and thorough review.
“Ideally Bach’s wonderful St.John Passion should be heard in the original German in order to fully appreciate the ideal marriage of text and music which makes Bach such a paragon of excellence amongst composers. There are some excellent versions available, and if I could gently push you in the direction of say Gardiner or Suzuki, then I would be satisfied that I’ve accomplished my good deed for the day.