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Monica Huggett directs a smoothly paced performance of Bach’s original 1724 version of his Johannes-Passion. She omits the flutes which, according to recent research by Pieter Dirksen, were not available in Leipzig at the time, and opts for relatively small forces (six solo vocalists, six ripienists and 14 instrumentalists), a number with which, she says, she feels able to honour both ‘the grandeur of the choruses’ and the ‘chamber-like quality of the arias’. The resulting sound is appealingly trim and fleet, with Charles Daniels presenting an eloquent Evangelist and the arias both sung and played with sensitivity. Huggett handles the reflective aspects of Bach’s musical retelling of the crucifixion with a sure touch; however, for me, she underplays its narrative drive and dramatic turbulence (the crowd baying for Christ’s blood, for example, sounds disarmingly tuneful rather than shockingly harsh). This even tone is maintained and, though infused with sadness, feels a little anti-climactic by the end.

Graham Lock Read the full review on Agora Classica


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Early Music Today, 2012 - ©Rhinegold Publishing