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Born in Weimar, Johann Sebastiani (1622-83) spent most of his career in Königsberg. His intriguing St Matthew Passion provides a line of continuity in Passion writing between Schütz and J.S. Bach. The work is written for five voices, six strings and a continuo group of organ, harpsichord and plucked instruments; musical directors Paul O’Dette and Stephen Stubbs jointly lead from the theorbo. The music is filled with innovation: Sebastiani was the first composer to introduce Lutheran chorales into oratorio passions, and here includes eight different chorale melodies, scored for soprano solo, four viols and continuo. The music is lyrical and flowing throughout, with strings supporting the role of Jesus, and a consort of viols accompanying the Evangelist – given an admirable performance, full of pathos and drama, by Colin Balzer. The vocalists and chamber ensemble of the Boston Early Music Festival give a dedicated and skilful performance of this very interesting work.

SHIRLEY RATCLIFFE Read the full review on Agora Classica

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