J.S.Bach, St. John Passion,
To hear him with the musicians from the Collegium Vocale in this sublime work (which has no reason to shy from comparison with the mightier St. Matthew Passion) is a very special opportunity and it is difficult to put in words how much I am looking forward to Sunday at Alice Tully Hall. It is bound to be an event that will undoubtedly be musically gratifying – but also bring a spiritual quality with it that is extraordinary and fulfilling. It is not necessary to be of a particular creed or to believe at all: If you are open to music, the music of Bach (followed at some distance by above mentioned Bruckner) is the closest to a deep sense of – for lack of a better word – the divine that an atheist (such as I’ll openly admit to being) can come.
There is not a group or conductor around whom I’d rather ‘receive’ this work from. With Konrad Jarnot (Christus), Christoph Prégardien (Evangelist), Camilla Tilling (soprano), Ingeborg Danz (alto), Jan Kobow (tenor), and Peter Kooij (bass) as his soloists and his fabled group, he is bound to create similar miracles that I know so well from his many records. If there are two conductors in Bach, where I’d grab anything blindly and without sampling, Herreweghe is one of them. Karl Richter is the other – which goes to show that particular ‘style’ is not what defines greatness in this music (Richter is decidedly not a “Historical Performance” conductor), but inspiration, dedication, and quality. Or, with an eye to the choir and orchestral forces: It’s not size that matters, but what you do with it. That’s what I’ve always been told, and it seems to be true. None of his cantata discs are less than excellent; the cantata disc titled “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen…” is among the very finest I have ever heard of Bach on record. His St. Matthew Passion (either recording, but especially the second) must be among of the three, four top choices, and wherever there is mention of Harnoncourt, Gardiner, Richter, or Rilling in Bach, there will also be mention of Herreweghe.
The entire post can be read on WETA's blog at www.weta.org/fm/blog.