J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

St. Matthew Passion

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Hans Weisbach
Accompaniment/Orchestra:Gawandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig
Soloists:Elisabeth Feuge, soprano
Margarete Klose, alto
Koloman von Pataky, tenor
Paul Schoffler, baritone
Kurt Bohme, bass
Karl Meyer, organ
Friedbert Sammler, harpsichord
University of Leipzig chorus
Schoo of St. Peter's Boys' Choir
Individual Works:St. Matthew Passion (Matthauspassion), BWV 244
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:Preiser Records
Catalog Number:90099 1-2
Year Released/Recorded:1935
Total Playing Time:146 minutes
Comments:Mark Adams said:

(Note: This review includes comments on an older vinyl release, in addition to comments on the compact disc release.)

This recording of BachÆs St. Matthew Passion was performed April 15, 1935, under the direction of Hans Weisbach, for radio in Leipzig. According to Leo Riemens, during the late 1920Æs and 1930Æs, ôevery major city had its own station and programà and until late in the 1930Æs all broadcasts were live!ö (liner notes, Rococo vinyl edition). One might even choose between two broadcasts in a single night. ôDuring [1935] I kept a diary of the broadcasts I heard and though I missed the Bach, I heard five operas under Weisbach,ö he writes. Thus, it is a treasure to have this broadcast available on vinyl and compact disc (the practice of recording -- for the archive and occasional repeat -- had begun in 1932). German radio during the 1930Æs certainly represents an important epoch in music history.

I regard the Weisbach passion very highly. It is at once the German passion of the 1930Æs as it is BachÆs passion of 1724, and bears a measure of historical import not to be missed. Bach as realized during the German Reich is a necessary reminder of moral imperatives. One senses a deep suffering in the performance, but not a despairing. There is sorrow indeed, but there is also something hopeful in Bach, in the passion û there is a sense of expectation and of redemption. The set is recommended for its magnificent treatment of the St. Matthew Passion, as it embodies and amplifies the message of ChristÆs passion.

Now some comments on the technical aspects of the recording.

Bearing in mind the date of the performance, the sound and balance are quite what one might expect. Under the Rococo label (no. 1010), it appears on three vinyl albums, in mono, ôreprocessed with high fidelity equipment.ö The extent of the reprocessing is uncertain. The set sounds curiously unbalanced, especially between the soloists and the choir, but this may reflect the limitations of the turntable from which it is heard (my turntable is not especially good). Under the Preiser Records label (no. 90099), it appears on two compact discs, in mono, apparently without any processing. It was issued in 1991. The set is well balanced, but there is some surface noise. Digital reprocessing would benefit the set greatly. Nevertheless, the recording is tremendously beautiful (I nearly melt whenever I hear the aria: Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben û I am hearing it now as I write). As for documentation, the Rococo edition comes complete with RiemensÆ notes; the Preiser edition lists only the tracks. (I doubt the Rococo edition is still circulating, so to obtain a copy of the liner notes, you may e-mail me at the address above). The Weisbach edition of the St. Matthew Passion may be the oldest extant recording of this composition.

As for the musicians, Weisbach is a remarkable conductor and the soloists are exceptional (and, I gather, very famous). Though perhaps a bit operatic, the oratorio is wonderfully conceived. I am particularly impressed with the soprano, Elisabeth Feuge, and also Magarethe Klose, the alto. I am not a sophisticated musician myself, so my comments are somewhat uninformed. However, on a whole, I think they do a masterful job. I prefer this recording to MengelbergÆs St. Matthew Passion of 1939 (Grammofono 2000, AB 78 739/41), even considering that the Mengelberg set has been digitally remastered.

Riemers says the original recording contains a complete version of the St. Matthew Passion, but the Rococo edition appears to be an abbreviated form of the passion (a track listing is not supplied). The Preiser edition contains shorter version of the passion. (The Mengelberg recording of 1939 appears on three compact discs and may be complete.) The tracks on the Weisbach compact disc set are as follows (apologies for the formatting and spelling û this is a mere scan of the liner notes):

COMPACT DISC 1 Erster Teil
Nr.I Chor. Kommt, ihr To~ehter, heift mir kiagen
Nr.2 Rezitativ. Da Jesus diese Rede vollendet hatte
Nr.3 Choral. Herzliebster Jesu, was hast do verbrochen
Nr.4 Rezitativ. Da versammelten sich die Rohenpriester
Nr.5 Chor. Ja nieht auf das ~est
Nr.6 Rezitativ. Da nun Jesus war zo Bethanien
Nr.7 Chor. Wozo dienet dieser Unrat
Nr.8 Rezitativ. Da das Jesu merkete, sprach er zo ihnen
Nr.9 Rezitativ. Do lieber Heiland do
Nr.10 Arie. Boss ond Reo' knirseht das Sijndenherz entzwei
11 Rczitativ. Da ging hin der Zwo'~ lIen Emer
Nr.12Arie. Blote nor, du liehes Illcrz
Nr.13Rezjtativ. Aber am ersten Tage der silssen Brod'
Nr.14Chor. Wo wilist do, dass wir dir bereiten das Ostcrlamm
Nr.15 Rezitativ. Er sprach: Cehet hin in die Stadi zo Emem
Nr.16 Choral. Icli bin's, ich soilte btissen
Nr.17 Rezitativ. Er antwortete ond sprach
Nr.18 Rezitativ. Wie wohl mein Herz in Tranen schwimmt
Nr.19 Arie. Ich will dir mein llerze schenken
Nr. 20 Rezitativ. Und da sie den Lobgesang gesnroehen hatten
Nr.21 Choral. Erkenne mich, mein Hilter, mein Hirte
Nr. 22 Rezitativ. Petros aber antwortete, ond spraeb zo ihm
Nr. 24 Rezitativ. Da kam Jesus mit ihnen zo emem Hofe
Nr. 25 Arie. 0 Sehmerz! hier zittert das geqoalte llerz
Nr.26 Arie. Ich will bei meinem Jeso wachen
Nr.27 Rezitaily. Und ging hin em wenig
Nr.28 Rezitativ. Der Heiland fa~llt vor seinem Vater nieder
Nr.30 Rezjtativ. Und er kam zo semen Jongern
Nr.31 Choral. Was mein Gott will, das g'seheh' all 'zeit
Nr.32 Rezitativ. Und er kam ond fand sie aber schlafend
Nr.33 Doett. So ist mein Jesus non gefangen
Nr.34 Rezitativ. Und siehe, Emer von denen, die mit Jeso waren

Nr. 35 Choral. 0 Mensch, bewein' dein' Sonde gross
36 Arie. Ach! nun ist mein Jesus hin
37 Rezilativ. Die aber Jesom gegriffen hatten
39 Rezitativ. Und wiewoN viel falsehe Zeogen herzotraten
40 Rezitativ, Mein Jeso schweigt zo falschen Logen stille
42 Rezitativ. Und der Hohepriester anlwortete
43 Rezitativ. Da speieten sie aus in sein Angesicht
44 Choral. Wer hat dich so geschlagen, mein He

Acknowledgements:Thank you to the following for submitting this recording and for your comments:
  • Mark Adams
Date First Submitted:09/17/1998