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Reviewed, Not Necessarily Recommended: St. John Passion from King's College

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J.S. Bach ,
St. John Passion (1724),
The Choir of King's College, Cambridge, Academy of Ancient Music
Stephen Cleobury (conductor),

Adequacy Amid Excellence

There's some wonderful singing here from James Gilchrist, Neal Davies, Iestyn Davies and above all Roderick Williams (whom I'd rather have heard in a bigger role i.e. - Jesus - than Bass & Pilate, but who's to complain). The Academy of Ancient Music plays very well, too; not too far in the foreground, but more than professional. There's subtle drama to be found in what they do. But the rest of the ingredients is either pedestrian or simply not good. Sophie Bevan is having a bad day with only some good but too many ungainly moments; Benedict Kearns is a liability (even for a part as small as Peter that's a drag); the Choir of King's College is serviceable here, but nothing more. It's not even the best St. John Passion with trebles involved; that title is easily held by the Thomaner Recording of the St. John Passion with G.C.Biller from Leizpig. The invariable conclusion is that this live take off a humdrum 2016 performance is not a competitive recording of the St. John Passion. Indeed at no point of the recording is it clear why this was released for any other reason than it had been planned and scheduled to be released before the fact and no one dare spoke up.

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