Johann Sebastian Bach’s settings of the Passions according to St. Matthew and St. John are among his most powerful compositions. The new Linn recording of the Matthew Passion by the Dunedin Consort and Players (directed by John Butt) is a terrific addition to the Passion discography. The ensemble’s soloists, choir, and orchestra are not only in fine form, but offer a new and fresh interpretation.
Based on material from both the St. John and St. Matthew Passions, Vladimir Ivanoff came up with a work known as the Arabian Passion, bringing together instruments and styles from Europe and the Middle East. The Passion texts are sung in both German and Arabic by Fadia El-Hage whose beautifully rich alto voice is the highlight of the recording. Ensemble Sarband gives an excellent performance.
Not long after Fabrizio Cassol collaborated with choreographer Alain Platel on an arrangement of Monteverdi’s Vespers, the two came up with a similar concept, this time inspired by J.S. Bach’s Matthew Passion. The resulting work is a powerful statement that is noticeably more of the 21st than of the 18th Century. Nevertheless, Bach’s music is recognizable if fleeting around the intense vocalizing and instrumental improvisations.