2 CDs: 79’58 & 77’45
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is the most revered European composer of all time. Since the 18th century he has been praised by by the leading composers and a host of contemporary musicians. St Matthew Passion is his most extended work and is supremely rewarding to study, rehearse and perform. It is a musical icon for the Christian world but at the same time expresses feelings common to the whole of humanity.
Recorded live at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, on 10 April 2009 (Good Friday) by kind permission, this recording is sung in English, using a new translation by Nicholas Fisher and John Russell. The recording was made possible thanks to the generous support of The Grimmitt Trust.
‘The Ex Cathedra performance is superb … finely balanced between the over-dramatic and the merely prosaic. Jeremy Budd is an unaffected narrator of the Evangelist’s story … and, as choral singers, all the aria soloists are free of overly-distinctive vocal affectations. Obbligato instruments are excellent throughout, mometary blemishes of intonation well worth the added exuberance of live performance in Birmingham’s Symphony Hall.’ (BBC Music Magazine – 5*)
‘… a profoundly sensitive new translation from Nicholas Fisher and John Russell… Skidmore’s overall shaping of the St Matthew is marked by exceptional judgment in nurturing his forces, a compelling corporate élan channeled through the warm-toned Ex Cathedra… The chorales and choral interpolations are responsively delivered with deft voicing and attention to textural detail … the coherence and rich colouring of “O World, your sinful ways lament” (No 29) and the final chorus confirm the quality of Ex Cathedra’s distinguished involvement’ (Gramophone)
‘If you’re in the market for an English version of St Matthew Passion, this is warnly recommended … I found Ex Cathedra’s alert performance a persuasive listen’ (International Record Review)
‘Two new CD releases from Ex Cathedra help us celebrate this expert chamber choir’s 40th anniversary season, and one of these is of immense importance. This is the performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion which Ex Cathedra gave at Symphony Hall on Good Friday afternoon this year, sung in a new “contemporary” English translation by Nicholas Fisher and John Russell. The immediacy of the text is matched by the confiding intimacy of vocal projection under Jeffrey Skidmore’s direction… Eamonn Dougan is quietly dignified as Jesus, and Jeremy Budd is the engaging Evangelist. The Ex Cathedra Baroque Orchestra plays with style and clarity, sprung from a light bass-line, and it is particularly gratifying to have the viola da gamba obbligati delivered with such verve and panache by Richard Campbell: a far cry from the purgatorial interminabilities of these movements in decades long gone.’ (Birmingham Post)
‘The choir … seems to have their music in their blood.’ (Early Music Review)
‘This splendid recording was released a year ago in England and is now available — finally! — in the USA. Skidmore, who founded Ex Cathedra 40 years ago and has been its director more than two decades. He is largely unknown outside the UK, being in USA the opposite of a household name for collectors of sacred choral music whose collections overflow with recordings led by the likes of Gardiner, Rilling and Robert Shaw. Pity that is, for Skidmore and his forces are wonderful practitioners. I first became aware of them by listening to their rendition of Vivaldi choral masterpieces that includes a number of my favorites. I was completely taken with their presentations of the vespers — which are evening performances, if you didn’t know. I am pleased to say they deliver equally well in this recording of perhaps the greatest of all sacred choral masterpieces… For me, this was my 2009 recording of the year and probably will be this year, too.’ (Amazon.com customer review)