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CD booklet
Bach: Johannes-Passion BWV 245

August 1, 2012

 ...the ATMA disc has a luminous and gently penetrating emotional impact (with one of the most moving accounts of 'Es ist vollbracht' in recent years from Meg Bragle). The instruments are discreet and yet integral, and the quality of the production adds up to a very significant, incrementally impressive new reading.

Jonathan Freeman-Attwood - Gramophone Magazine

Early Music Review
April 1, 2012

This is a Quebec-based recording of the first (surviving?) 1724 version of the ]ohannespasion, slightly larger in scale than Monica Huggett's Portland version (reviewed Iast issue) but very different in feel and recorded in a more generous acoustic. The twelve singers are robust and confident in the opening chorus, but as each is given an aria or small carneo part to sing, the very distinctive voices begin to emerge, each keen to impress us with their soloistic skills. The star for me is the soprano Agnes Zsigovics -icily perfect in her grief in Zerjliesse.

Other characters tend to follow suit, accom-panied by a continuo section where the harpsichord is used to underscore the drama. This rather mannered style applies to the chorales too, where every syllable is invested with meaning. But singers and players are well-attuned to each other, able to give good breathing--spaces without appearing to interrupt the rhythnùc flow.

So there is lots to commend, some very beautiful singing and playing with tempi nicely judged; listen to the nùddle sections of Ruht wohl with single voices and a lot of 'feeling' to judge whether you like it. But don't miss Agnes -among the best ever.

David Stancliffe - Early Music Review

The WholeNote
April 1, 2012

ATMA Classique of Montreal continues to put out excellent discs at a prodigious rate. One of the more recent releases is particularly appropriate to the Easter season this month, Bach’s St. John Passion (ACD2 2611). Featuring Les Voix Baroques and Arion Orchestre Baroque under the direction of Alexander Weimann, international soloists include tenor Jan Kobow as the Evangelist and three basses, Stephan MacLeod as Jesus, Joshua Hopkins as Peter and Nathaniel Watson as Pilate. All are in great form here, with particular kudos to chorister soprano Shannon Mercer who shines in the aria “Ich folge dir gleichfalls mit freudigen Schritten.” From the motoric opening“Herr,unser Herrscher” through the recitatives, arias and choruses of the “Betrayal and Arrest,” “Denial of Peter,” “Interrogation and Scourging,” “Condemnation and Crucifixion,” “Death of Jesus” and “Burial” of Christ to the peaceful final chorale “Ach Herr, lass dein leib Engelein” (Ah Lord, let thine own angels dear…) almost two hours later, our attention is held without flagging in this glorious performance. The comprehensive booklet includes thorough program notes and texts in three languages.

David Olds - The WholeNote

Radio-Canada - Première chaîne
March 27, 2012

J'avoue une préférence pour la version d'ATMA pour le tempo adopté, pour la prise de son qui est plus proche, mieux définie, mais aussi pour les voix de l'Évangéliste et de Jésus.

Érich Langlois - Estrie Express

Le journal de Montréal
March 3, 2012


Même si la période pascale n'est pas encore arrivée, l'orchestre baroque Arion sous la direction d'Alexander Weimann ouvre ses portes à un grand classique. Dans la lignée du chef d'orchestre Nicolas Harnoncourt, les voix privilégient une densité et un engagement total. Tranquillement, nous nous laissons séduire par la dramaturgie du texte et les effets de contraste. Enveloppant.

Christophe Rodriguez - Le journal de Montréal

The Globe and Mail
February 17, 2012


J. S. Bach’s St. John Passion is more intimate, more mystical and more volatile than its august cousin, The St. Matthew Passion. It moves rapidly, with a great deal of contrast, and one of the strengths of this imposing performance – along with the remarkable clarity and focused sound of the ensemble singing – is the way it maintains dramatic momentum, often balancing different levels of activity and meaning within the same aria or chorus. Les Voix Baroques is a choir of soloists, most of whom have at least one solo: Among several stand-out arias are alto Meg Bragle’s luxuriously paced Es ist vollbracht, bass Stephan MacLeod’s sonorous Betrachte, meine Seel and an unusually brisk Erwäge, sung by tenor Lawrence Wiliford.

Elissa Poole - The Globe and Mail

Radio-Canada - Première chaîne
February 11, 2012

 ... Des musiciens de chez nous qui font cet enregistrement fort bien fait. Vous allez voir que c'est de haute qualité... C'est beau, c'est magnifique. Et c'est moderne; cette musique ne s'éteint pas.

Edgar Fruitier - Samedi et rien d'autre

Musical Toronto
February 7, 2012

Gorgeously balanced new Canadian recording of Bach St.John Passion

Itinerant Baroque-specialist conductor Alexander Weimann leads a fantastic new recording of J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion.

What makes this two-CD set so compelling is its overall proportion and balance. Bach’s musical setting is dramatic yet intimate. Some conductors prefer to highlight the drama, others prefer to focus on the intimate power of the Christian Passion story, which outlines how Jesus had to be condemned, suffer and die in order for humankind to be saved from its sins. (To this day, churches commonly read or re-enact the Passion on Good Friday.)

Weimann achieves the ideal middle ground by relying on Bach’s very carefully laid-out text and music.

The balance starts with great, finely nuanced, never forced vocal performances in the alternation of narration in recitative form (tenor Jan Kobow, in fine, light voice), with arias or ariosos (a strong trio of basses representing Jesus, disciple Peter and Pontius Pilate) and choruses (12 voices, including the three solo basses, all made up of fine soloists — including Torontonians Shannon Mercer and Lawrence Wiliford).

The singing is underpinned by a gorgeous score, rendered by period instruments well played by members of Montreal’s Arion Baroque Orchestra, led by Weimann at the organ.

One can enjoy the finely burnished surface of the music, then listen again and again to take in how Bach’s instruments are individually chosen to convey particular moods and images.

This is the case in all fine Baroque music, but the depictions are particularly striking in Bach’s meticulous handiwork, which includes all sorts of mathematical oppositions and symmetries designed to underline the events surrounding the Crucifixion and focus on the believer’s own faith journey through all the tumult.

The St. John Passion, probably written in 1724, shortly after Bach arrived in Leipzig to become the music director at St. Thomas’s Church, is one of the great monuments of Western sacred music. This fine recording does it full justice.

John Terauds - Musical Toronto

Radio-Canada - Première chaîne
January 31, 2012

Il s'agit d'une oeuvre majeure de Bach, c'est du solide, du joli. Quelle oeuvre fascinante; Jésus à échelle humaine, c'est très très beau, vraiment.

Un projet ambitieux, très réussi.

Frédéric Lambert, Marie-Christine Blais - Médium Large