J. S. Bach: St John Passion BWV245
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment,
Polyphony, Stephen Layton (dir)
Hyperion CDA67901/2

Stephen Layton directs this intense, dramatic reading with intelligence and integrity, ably assisted by an excellent team of soloists. Ian Bostridge is a superbly articulate, agile and expressive Evangelist, giving weight and meaning to the narrative’s every word, and Neal Davies’s firm, resonant bass as Christ provides appropriate gravitas in contrast with Roderick Williams’ robustly sung Pilate. Carolyn Sampson and Nicholas Mulroy sing their arias with control and conviction, complemented on occasion by some admirable wind obbligatos, and Iestyn Davies gives a mellifluous, moving account of ‘Es ist vollbracht’, with gambist Richard Tunnicliffe deftly setting its grief-stricken mood. Layton’s small choir, Polyphony, responds alertly to the changing dramatic demands, making urgent, incisive interjections in the brief, elaborate ‘turba’ choruses and phrasing the chorales, three unaccompanied (accompanied versions are available as an appendix), with sensitivity. The OAE plays with style and authority, and Hyperion’s recording is spacious, full, clear and detailed.

Watch the video below of the recording at All Hallows Church, Gospel Oak:

 

This CD is featured as editor’s choice in the June-August issue of Early Music Today. You can read the full reviews section by purchasing the magazine digitally or in print.

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