Bach: St Mark Passion - Savall
Alia Vox AVSA9931 (2 discs)
Classical - Vocal
Bach: St Mark Passion
Marta Matheu (soprano)
Raffaele Pe (counter-tenor)
Dávid Szigetvári & Reinoud Van Mechelen (tenors)
Konstantin Wolff (bass)
Cor Infantil Amics de la Unió
La Capella Reial de Catalunya
Le Concert des Nations
Jordi Savall (conductor)
Created in Leipzig in March 1731 and then revised for the Holy Week of 1744, on a text by Christian Friedrich Henrici, a.k.a Picander, the St Mark Passion was composed by Bach using existing works. The autograph score is lost but recent musicological research shows that some pieces like the Funeral Ode BWV 198 or an aria from the cantata BWV 54 had been recycled. Every performance is thus a reconstruction by the performing artist. Jordi Savall offers his own vision, made of subtle chiaroscuro, suffused with serenity and meditation.
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Review by Adrian Quanjer - April 12, 2019
In a week’s time it will be Good Friday, a Christian holiday commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus, their messiah. In many countries it is also the day that Bach’s passion music based on the gospels of Saint Mathew and Saint John are widely performed. Although known for quite some time it is only recently that a third version appeared: The gospel of Saint Mark. Few recordings exist and in Super Audio there are only two, a copy of one of which I received only yesterday. Hardly time enough to write a well thought through review. However, for those considering to have it in time as an alternative for ‘the usual’, I’m giving here some thoughts on Jordi Savall’s interpretation.
All existing recording are based upon Picander’s libretto. This recording uses the one discovered in 2009 in St Petersburg, which is slightly different from the earlier version used by others. As hitherto no musical score could be found, scholars had no alternative but to search for clues on how to reconstruct the lost passion, thereby trying to rhythmically match texts with existing scores from cantatas and passion music. Different attempts and results exist and Savall’s is one of them.
In his version he uses much of BWV 198 ‘Funeral Ode’ and Saint Mathew’s Passion, as well as from other sources, though no external ones as done by some other scholars. A ‘summary of sources, loans and adaptations’ is given in the booklet. Knowing that it was Bach’s common practice to use the same score for different occasions, such reconstructions are not unreasonable. Besides, many chorales were ‘traditional’ anyway and thus not always Bach’s. Though much of the music may be familiar the text is original.
The recording was made during a live concert in La Chapelle Royale of the Château de Versailles and capturing the sound under these circumstances and in these acoustics is not entirely ideal. Also, Savall and his Capella Reial de Catalunia et Le Concert des Nations play less disciplined than, for instance, British or German equivalents, but making it on the other hand sound more authentic and spontaneous. The soloists are fine and on the whole up to the mark for this kind of singing. In conclusion: the performance leaves the listener with the feeling of being present in the chapel at the day of recording.
I’m sure Savall fans will want to have it, and others may also be interested in the research that has gone into it; wrapped up in a luxurious double carton CD pack with a host of information in the usual three languages English, French and German, plus an additional translation of the German libretto in Catalan and Italian. It is richly illustrated and has an added catalogue of available Alia Vox recordings of Savall & Co. It certainly is worth your money.
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