RECORDINGS OF THE YEAR
‘The opening growls with the same prescient foreboding and authority of the very best accounts from the past 70 years’
Jonathan Freeman-Attwood is bowled over by a mesmerising remake of Bach’s
St Matthew Passion from Masaaki Suzuki’s Bach Collegium Japan
JS Bach St Matthew Passion, BWV244 Benjamin Bruns ten Evangelist Christian Immler bass Christus Carolyn Sampson, Aki Matsui sops Damien Guillon, Clint van der Linde countertens Makoto Sakurada, Zachary Wilder tens Toru Kaku bass Bach Collegium Japan / Masaaki Suzuki BIS F b Í BIS2500 (163’ • DDD/DSD • T/t)
To embark on a second recording of the St Matthew Passion 20 or so years after an admired reading with many of the same musicians from Bach Collegium Japan might, one would imagine, have been governed by a specific set of motivations. On the evidence of this powerful, superbly framed and exceptionally judged account, Masaaki Suzuki may instead have reached a point where, over decades of intensely dedicated Bach performance, a revisiting simply became a necessary rite of passage – as it has for many before him.
Those who have traced Suzuki’s Bach direction of the last few years, alongside a burgeoning series of enterprising organ volumes, will have noticed a subtle but interesting shift in the realms of emotional risk and dramatic thrust. This is not to say that his performances of Bach’s choral works have ever been anything but an exploration of the inner meaning of how music, imagery and text converge in clearly projected ideals. But from the outset here, the music feels embedded in a broader and freer set of expressive ambitions than ever.
Suzuki’s vibrantly conceived vision extends to open-shouldered and passionately projected choral contributions, the lived-in storytelling of the burnished Evangelist of Benjamin Bruns
(Peter’s denial is like a dagger to the heart), the switches between human frailty and febrile physicality of Christian Immler’s Jesus and Suzuki’s winning attribute of giving the music air and momentum at the same time. As a result, the ritual of each tableau and its reflective suite of arias is given genuinely memorable character. The opening growls with the same prescient foreboding and authority of the very best accounts of the past 70 years, PHO T O G R A P H Y
B O R G G R E V E
M A R C O
12 GRAMOPHONE RECORDINGS OF THE YEAR 2020