J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

St. John Passion (1725 version)

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Craig Smith
Accompaniment/Orchestra:The Chorus and Orchestra of Emmanuel Music
Soloists:Frank Kelley, Evangelist
Mark McSweeney, Jesus
David Kravitz, Pilate
Donald Wilkinson, Peter
Roberta Anderson, Maid
Mark Sprinkle, Servant
Gloria Raymond, Jayne West, Mark Risinger, Gerald Gray, William Hite, Donald Wilkinson, Pamela Dellal, Paul Guttry, William Hite, and Kendra Colton, Aria Soloists.
Individual Works:"St. John Passion (1725 version)," BWV 245
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:Koch International Classics
Catalog Number:3-7476-2 HI
Year Released/Recorded:1999
Total Playing Time:2:01:55
Comments:Thomas Hubeart said:

The first thing that should be said about the 1725 version of the "St. John Passion" is that the changes Bach made to the score later on were almost without exception clear improvements. Nevertheless, anyone who is intrigued by the Cantor of St. Thomas will be interested in the changes he made, some of which sacrifice some very beautiful music indeed. Craig Smith and Emmanuel Music of Boston here present us with a recording that gives full measure to Bach's original conception of this work.

One gets over the oddity of hearing "O Mensch, bewein dein Suende gross" beginning the Passion rather quickly. (Bach was quite right to move this meditative piece to the end of Part I of the "St. Matthew" and replace it with the more propulsive "Herr, unser Herrscher" in his final "St. John" recension.) In fact, other than a handful of numbers at strategic positions--for example, the SECOND concluding chorus "Christe, du Lamm Gottes" which was later removed in favor of a straight chorale--, most of this 1725 "St. John" is no different from the standard score.

Smith and his modern-instruments forces perform impeccably and lovingly; the pronunciation and fervor of these singers would not at all sound out of place in Leipzig itself. There is not a weak link among the soloists, although I must admit that the arias which are not in the standard score (such as "Zerschmettert mich") caught my attention more than the more familiar numbers. In short, I would suggest that anyone unfamiliar with the "St. John" investigate one of the better recordings of the final version (such as Gardiner's) and then come to this. Not only does this "1725 version" capture a fine performance, but following Bach through the act of revising his score--discarding a good aria for an even better one, or sacrificing a beautiful number like "Christe, du Lamm Gottes" to strengthen the overall artistic effect--is utterly fascinating.

Acknowledgements:Thank you to the following for submitting this recording and for your comments:
  • Thomas Hubeart
Date First Submitted:07/07/2001