|Peter Bloemendaal said:|
Most interesting recording after the 1841 performance by Mendelssohn in the Leipzig "Thomaskirche", where the Passion was first performed by Bach himself in 1729.
In 1823, 14-year-old Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy received the manuscript of Bach's great passion as a Christmas present from his grandmother. When he first set eyes on it, he was fascinated and awe-struck and determined to perform this great work, completely forgotten at the time.
In 1829, after numerous revisions and omissions, he made his romantic dream come true and gave a highly dramatic performance of a drastically shortened passion. He had skipped two out of three arias and added lots of dynamic indications.
In 1841, Mendelssohn performed a second version, in which four major arias were reinserted. "Blute Nur", "Gebt mir meinem Jesum wieder", "Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben" and "Mache dich mein Herze rein" then first delighted the 19th century audience as they still do today.
Christoph Spering uses the 1841 version. Notable in the instrumentation is the use of clarinets for the in 1841 unknown oboes da caccia and d'amore.
The secco-recitatives are played by two cellos and a double bass, whereas the organ only accompanies the chorals and some arias.
Mendelssohn's romantic interpretation aimed at expressing human emotions by dynamic musical means. It is evident in the large opening and final chorus, in the chorals and especially in the impersonation of Christ. In the opening chorus, the choral "O! Lamm Gottes Unschuldig" which is usually sung by the clear treble voices of the soprano-di-ripieno, is transformed into a "molto expressivo" powerful unisono choral for the four soloists.
In Bach's interpretation the central point of the passion is the aria for soprana "Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben", in which the main theme of Christ's redeeming love is delicately expressed. Mendelssohn focused on the alto-aria "Erbarme dich", which he dramatically transposed for the soprano voice. Another example of dynamic expression is to be heard in the elevated and solemn singing of the choir in "Wenn ich einmal soll scheiden", which goes on for 2 minutes and 36 seconds, where 1"26" is the usual duration and even Klemperer "only" needed 2'20".
Spering deserves a lot of credit for this very interesting and original rendering of Bach's magnum opus. Das Neue Orchester, led by Ingeborg Scheerer, sounds perfectly. The soloists may not be top of the world, they all contribute greatly to an impressive performance. The choir pleases me as much as the actual recording.
It is remarkable and laudable that, whilst producing a highly romantic version of the St. Matthew's Passion, Christoph Spering always keeps control of emotions, so that this 1841 Passion sounds surprisingly up to date.