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Johann Sebastian Bach: Johannes-Passion BWV 245 [Doppel-CD]

Polyphony Audio CD

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Conductor Stephen Layton, top soloists, the expert choir of Polyphony and the incomparable Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment perform the St John Passion annually at St John's Smith Square. It's always a sell-out. Bach revised the work several times. Layton has honed his preferred version, but only aficionados will notice or mind. Concentrate instead on the purity of sound, the emotionally expressive yet restrained performance by all and the impeccable attention to text of the soloists. Ian Bostridge (Evangelist) lives every word of the narration but never over dramatises. Countertenor Iestyn Davies's almost disembodied account of Es ist vollbracht! (It is finished!) is unforgettable. --Observer,03/03/13

This is a particuar distinctive St John Passion, notable for the excellence of the singing and, most particularly , for Bostridge's masterly Evangelist. --IRR, Mar'13

On Good Friday at London's St John's Smith Square, Stephen Layton will conduct Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in Bach's St John Passion. These Polyphony performances of the masterworks marking the church's major festivals have become a key constituent of the concert calendar, but this is the first time that the choir has committed an extended Bach work to disc. It will not be the last: the Christmas Oratorio can be expected later in the year. In the meantime this St John Passion brings to the fore the traits of style and taste that are distinguished hallmarks of Layton and the forces he gathers around him. The cast here, with one or two exceptions, is the same as the one that will be singing next Friday. Ian Bostridge is the tenor Evangelist, eloquent, pure of tone, fluent and strong in communicating the import of the German narrative. Neal Davies is a Christus of tender authority. The choir sings with a well-rounded sound, firm accents and with diction that brings the text crisply to life: the spitting out of the word nicht in the passage where the crowd asserts that it has delivered Jesus up to Pilate because he is a malefactor is just one example of how attentive this performance is to the colouring of words. It has been said that the St John Passion has affinities with Baroque opera in its almost theatrical evocation of time and place. Layton, with a fine quartet of soloists in Carolyn Sampson, Iestyn Davies, Nicholas Mulroy and Roderick Williams, harnesses the dramatic thrust of the Passion while also conveying its sacred, spiritual substance. ***** --Telegraph, 23/03/13

For those still to be convinced by the one-to-a-part lobby who prefer their Bach with more flesh on the bone, Stephen Layton's generously resourced choir of 30 singers and well-stocked orchestra might see like an obvious fit. Add to that Polyphony's track record in the St John s passion, plus a starry line-up of soloistsm and this new recording s credentials border on the unassailable. Performance + Recording **** --BBC Music Magazine, Apr'13

Stephen Layton's outstanding new St John is about as state-of-the-art a Bach passion recording as you ll hear. GRAMOPHONE CHOICE --Gramophone, May'13


Polyphony and Stephen Layton present their celebrated performance of Bachs most dramatic masterpiece. Accompanied by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and a starry team of soloists, Layton directs a vivid account, the excitement of the narrative drama contrasting with heartbreaking moments of reflection. In Ian Bostridge, we have the most iconic Evangelist of the last twenty years; an artist who is an incomparable communicator, a singer of technical brilliance, and an impassioned, experienced interpreter of Bachs music.


Polyphony - Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment - Stephen Layton, direction
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