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Most scholars agree that Bach’s supreme setting of the Passion story was probably first performed on Good Friday 1727. While the original manuscript score and performing parts have been lost, the survival of several later sources make it possible to reconstruct the work’s first version and compare it with Bach’s 1736 autograph score, the version commonly heard today. Yorkshire Baroque Soloists and Peter Seymour offer a recording of the 1726/7 score that underlines the genius of a composer working in a genre still new to him. Their compelling vision of the work manages to project its human drama while intensifying its profound reverence. Charles Daniels and Peter Harvey, as Evangelist and Jesus, invest decades of experience into conveying the pain and reflecting on the essential message of Christ’s Passion.

The triumph of this interpretation rises from the Yorkshire Baroque Soloists’ vital engagement with words and their imaginative expression. Bach’s Passion hymns, several accompanied by organ alone, stand here as moments of heightened ritual, intense and incisive in their delivery. The same conviction flows through the pithy secco recitative accompaniments and wholehearted instrumental playing. Seymour’s fine soloists, Sally Bruce Payne and Matthew Brook outstanding among them, work in harness with his band as a consort of equals, moving with ease from recitatives and arias to choruses and chorales. Single strings and a rich complement of continuo instruments reinforce the recording’s irresistible spirit of chamber music-making.

Andrew Seymour Read the full review on Agora Classica

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