Veronika Winter, Franz Vitzthum, Markus Brutscher, Martin Schicketanz SATB, Rheinische Kantorei, Das Kleine Konzert, Hermann Max
110:28 (2 CDs in a box)
cpo 555 311-2
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This recording was made in the Thomaskirche in Leipzig during the 2019 Bachfest, with support from other bodies primarily interested in Bach’s music. Indeed, most of the booklet note (which is shorter in length than the combined biographies of the performers!) is devoted not to Stölzel at all, but to Bach.
Stölzel’s passion oratorio takes a different approach than Bach’s own works for Easter. The story is told mostly in groups of three movements as if in real time, with a recitative featuring the narrator using the present tense and then the soloists reflecting on what they’ve heard first in more recitative, then an aria, followed by a chorale setting sung by everyone. There are 18 arias, one duet and two choruses. Stölzel was essentially a miniaturist; each aria is based on a single idea – most of them earworms, since the man had an unerring gift for getting under one’s musical skin (think “Bist du bei mir” and how difficult that is to shake off!) The one thing missing from this work is counterpoint; with no monumental structural choruses, there is no need for them – anyone who doubt’s Stölzel’s ability in the field need merely look through any of the hundreds of surviving cantatas and masses. If only one of his glorious works for Easter Sunday had been tagged on to the end of this recording – it would have transformed it!
Hermann Max paces the piece well and draws fine performances from his soloists, choir and orchestra alike. That said, György Vashegyi with his Hungarian soloists, Purcell Choir and Orfeo Orchestra put a little more energy into their performance on Glossa.