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Sunday, 8 April 2012

Matthew Passion at London Handel Festival

6/4/2012

I reviewed it for Bachtrack. Read it here. A little disappointing overall, mainly due to dull direction from Laurence Cummings and dull playing of the London Handel Orchestra. Singing mostly lovely, with Anna Devin again impressing (it turns out she was the first nymph that I liked so much in the recent ROH Rusalka). Emilie Renard who I've seen before as a wonderful Sesto was not quite so impressive here, and I think it's just a tessitura issue - the "alto" arias require a real solidity down low.

Here's a preview:

Probably no other work in the repertoire has such mystical status as Bach's Matthew Passion. Phrases like "The Greatest Work in the Western Canon", trip glibly off the tongue while failing to illuminate its greatness or acknowledge its strangeness. It is the sacred cow of sacred cows. It is of course an extraordinary piece: the beauty of the arias, with their endlessly inventive Arietta-recit introductions laden with effects and affekt not to mention the amazing musical characterisation of Jesus, the feeling that we are constantly dipping into real life scenes between the Evangelist's explanations, the choral interjections, and everywhere the harmony surprising no matter how many times one has heard it. One could go on.

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