Saint Thomas Choir of Men & Boys, Fifth Avenue, New York, John Scott
BWV [Anh.] 159, 225-230
These performances were taped during sessions in May 2012, 2013 and 2014 with the same “men” (seven altos, ten tenors and eight basses) but a slightly different group of two dozen or so boys and three different organists, though the same cello and violone players. As a full-time church choir singing five services every week, and under the guidance of the former director of music at St Paul’s in London, they are a well-oiled machine which performs these masterpieces with self-assured gusto. The “chorale arias” are carefully shaped (one can almost hear the conductor’s hand waving in the air), much thought has gone into deciding which phrases should or should not be “sung through” (and ensuring that sufficient breath is reserved for the final long notes!) and the texts (and their meanings) come across clearly. There are very occasional technical imperfections – the devilish lines of some of the faster sections lack clarity, for example – but the overall impression is positive indeed. John Butt’s booklet essay is – of course – excellent.