J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

St. Matthew Passion

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Herbert vonKarajan
Accompaniment/Orchestra:Berliner Philharmoniker
Soloists:Peter Schreier
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
Gundula Janowitz
Christa Ludwig
Walter Berry
Individual Works:St. Matthew Passion BWV 244
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:Deutsche Grammophon
Catalog Number:419789-2
Year Released/Recorded:1972
Total Playing Time:3h24'42
Comments:Paolo Mazza said:
A powerful, highly lyrical and spiritual recording, with moving soloists and an inspired conductor

Walter Koehler said:
Gorgeous, lush, recording, very much out of style. Schreier's evangelist is as good as it gets, and Janowitz is ethereal. Not at all historically correct, but well worth owning.

George Murnu said:

My favorite recording of the work. The opening chorus is especially fabulous. Has anybody ever heard "Sehet - Wen? - den Brautigam" sang with such conviction, desperation, longing, and guilt? Or "Geduld! Wennmich falsche Zungen stechen", or "Warlich, dieser ist Gottes Sohn gewesen", or the chorales which make us feel we are participating there, that it comes from us; the range of dynamics so judiciously chosen. The soloists are of course excellent. This is not Bach's Matthaus-Passion: it is von Karajan's and is great!

Frank H. Chae said:

I am quite bored by all these negative criticisms about the "von Karajan sound". They all come across as jealous and envious rage against someone of great vision, no matter how flawed the person may be. Dictator or not, the level of evolution he achieved with his orchestras is testimony to the man's greatness. I think the same criticisms were hurled at Bach in his own times when he elaborated on traditional but mediocre Lutheran hymnals and always pushed his choir beyond its breaking point. If you just listen to Karajan's Matthaus Passion, the performance will justify itself without explanation. As to the claim that this work is not historically accurate? Do you really believe Bach wanted his music to be limited to his own times? It is widely recognized that Bach was not entirely satisfied by the harpsicord and was looking for the pianoforte to expand the dynamic range of his compositions. I have to laugh when these so called authentic instrument buffs proclaim that theirs is the true Bach sound. We must all remember that Bach found his choir and the musical band never completely satifactory to his own vision. Indeed, one gets the feeling that he was always composing for the future generations that would one day catch with him.

Vincent Jourdan said:

I think it's one of the most fantastic version. Both P.Schreier and DFischer-Dieskeau do not sing Jesus and Evangelist but ARE.
Karajan is also very surprising conducing such a Bach's work. The very spiritual atmosphere accompany us with all drama booklet needs.
It's a very long earing pleasure.

Acknowledgements:Thank you to the following for submitting this recording and for your comments:
  • Paolo Mazza
  • Walter Koehler
  • George Murnu
  • Frank H. Chae
  • Vincent Jourdan
Date First Submitted:02/14/1997