Kulturkompasset | critics of culture events

St. Matthew Passion in Perigueux

Markus Brutscher was wonderful as the Evangeliste in J.S.Bachs Mattheus Passion performed by Ensemble Akadèmia in Perigueux. Foto: Henning Høholt..jpg

The St. Matthew Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach at the Saint Etienne church in Perigueux was an extraordinary good event. The length inclusive break was 3 hours and 10 minutes as a long opera, – but not as long as a Wagner opera. The music is demanding for the participants, both for the choir, orchestra (the audience) and for the soloists, among them the most importent role the Evangeliste, brilliant sung and played by the wonderful and powerfull tenor MARKUS BRUTSCHER who “saved” it all. By his otstanding and splendid presence it became one of the highlights in the festival. He managed to keep the “show” continuing and was allways present, it seems like the textual performance came from his heart, he seemed to know every thing about the history that he communicated to us, and his interpretation (in German) was brilliant. BRAVO.

But Markus Brutscher was not alone on stage. It was the  Ensemble Akadêmia under the direction of Francoise Lasserre, who was in the centre, with the double orchestra and double choir, from which the soloists, two sopranos, Céline Scheen, Cécile Kempenaers, two countertenors, Damien Guillon and Paulin Büngden, two tenors Vincent Lièvre Picard and Johannes Weiss, and two basses Benoit Arnaould and Philippe Roche was stepping out of the choires and taking care of the different demanding soloparts.  These soloparts are demanding with large recitatives and arias, and in between also playing the different roles in the piece. Mostly it went well, but in a few cases, it seems that a few of the singers didn´t know the German language so well that the prono\unciation and the rhtmic, unfortunately was wrong. It was specially clear by the bass who had most to sing in the first half part. A better German, rhytmically and musically guiding to a singer with such a potentially good voice would have been good in the preparation work. The second bass was, in this, way much better. Unfortunately it is not an easy matter, but so many CDs is existing with this famous passion, it is allways helping to listen, and to play in for your self and listen to it. But in fact the conductor should have noticed and changed this during the rehearsals.

When the concert is being playd in for TV (in this case Mezzo) and can be seen world wide. It is importent for the singers to prepare well. As this is one of their visiting cards to other engagement possibillities. But this is only a minor detail in an else very good concert.

TheSt Matthew Passion, BWV244, (in German:Matthäus-Passion), is a musical composition from the Passionswritten by Johann Sebastian Bachin 1727 for solo voices, double choirand double orchestra, with librettoby Picander(Christian Friedrich Henrici). It sets chapters 26and 27 of the Gospel of Matthewto music, with interspersed choralesand arias. It is widely regarded as one of the masterpieces of classical sacred music. The original Latin titlePassio Domini Nostri J.C. Secundum Evangelistam Matthaeum translates to “The Passion of our Lord J[esus] C[hrist] according to the Evangelist Matthew.” It is also rendered in English asSt. Matthew Passionand in German asMatthäuspassion.

Although Bach wrote four (or five) settings of thePassionsonly two have survived; the other is the St. John Passion. TheSt Matthew Passionwas probably first performed on Good Friday(11 April) 1727)in the Thomaskirchein Leipzig, where Bach was the Kantorof the School andDirectoris Chori musiciof Leipzig. He revised it by 1736, performing it again on 30 March 1736, this time including two organsin the instrumentation. He further revised and performed it again on 24 March 1742. Possibly due to the second organ being under repair, he switched the continuo instrument to harpsichord in Coro II, reinforced the continuo group in Coro II with a viola da gamba, and inserted a ripienisoprano in both movements 1 and 29. There is evidence of a further revision in 1743-1746, when the score as we know it originated, but no performance.

St. Matthew Passion is full of beautiful parts. One is of course the famous choral: “Erkenne mich, mein Hüter, Mein Hirte, nimm mich an”.

Another is the famouse soprano aria (no.39):” Erbarme dich, Mein Gott, um meiner Zähren willen”. In this we experienced a wonderful cooperation between the soprano and the 1. violin.

The narration of the Gospel texts are sung by the tenor Evangelist, in Perigueux sung by MARKUS BRUTSCHER, in secco recitative accompanied only by continuo. In Perigueux with an outstanding organist – P- Gallon. Soloists sing the words of various characters, also in recitative; in addition to Jesus, there are named parts for Judas, Peter, two high priests, Pontius Pilate, Pilate’s wife, two witnesses and two ancillae (maids). These are not always sung by all different soloists. The “character” soloists are also often assigned arias and sing with the choirs, a practice not always followed by modern performances. Two duets are sung by a pair of soloists’ representing two simultaneous speakers. A number of passages for several speakers, called turba (crowd) parts, are sung by one of the two choirs or both.

The words of Jesus, also termed Vox Christi (voice of Christ), usually receive special treatment. Bach created particularly distinctive accompagnatorecitatives in this work: they are accompanied not only by continuo but by the entire string section of the first orchestra using long, sustained notes and “highlighting” certain words, thus creating an effect often referred to as Jesus’s “halo”. Only his final words, written in Aramiac, Eli, eli, lama sabachthani (My God, my god, why have you forsaken me?), are sung without this “halo”.  In the revision of 1743-1746, it is also these words (the Vox Christi) that receive a sustained continuo part.  In all prior versions (1727/1729, 1736, and 1742), the continuo part was sustained in all recitatives.

Some arias and choruses of the St Matthew Passion have a parody connection to the for a periode lost funeral cantata Klagt, Klagt, klagt es aller welt, BWv 244a, composed for the memorial service for Leopold,  Prince of Anhalt-Köthen (1729).  – Köthener Trauermusic. As we heard , in this same church in Perigueux on Wednesday evening with Ensemble Pygmalion in a brilliant premiere production conducted by the outstanding conductor Raphael Pichon.

Please read the critic of Köthener Trauermusichttp://www.kulturkompasset.com/2011/08/raphael-pichon-bach-kothener-trauermusic-perigueux/

The two choires was generally good- Their sounds both together and one by one functioned well. Many of the soloists from the choires functioned well, but, ss mentioned earlier, unfortunately not all of them.

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