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We should be grateful to Patrick Peire and his Brussels forces, together with his uniformly stylish group of soloists, as they make a most convincing case for Telemann’s 1745 St John Passion, one of 46 passions written by this celebrated contemporary of Bach and Handel while he served as cantor of the Hamburg Johanneum. The differences between Bach’s approach and that of Telemann are easy to spot. For example, in this version of the John Passion Telemann does not include any monumental, framing choruses such as we find in Bach. Rather, it begins with a familiar chorale, simply delivered, that is immediately followed not by the Evangelist embarking on the familiar story but by an elaborate ‘cavata’ in which Jesus speaks to us in freely written texts derived from the gospel. Such poetical paraphrases are characteristic of Telemann’s development of the Passion style and add a further layer of drama and emotion, though perhaps without the striking originality that Bach musters.

Of the soloists, special mention must be made of Reginald Pinheiro, as convincing an Evangelist as you’re ever likely to hear in this repertoire, while the burnish-toned British mezzo Sarah Connolly is outstanding. The 30 voices of Capella Brugensis produce a warm and uniformly well-balanced sound throughout and the complementary period orchestras relish Telemann’s sonorities. First released in 2009, it here makes a welcome reappearance.

PHILIP REED Read the full review on Agora Classica

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