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03/30/2017

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"If you want to call the others romantic, you'd have to call this one classical."

Or baroque! ;-)

I've not heard this particular recording, but I am a big admirer of Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan. (A slightly embarrassing secret that I'll share just with you is that I have all 50+ discs in their Bach cantata series.)

I generally prefer the "historically informed performance" school over the big-boned, romantic school, for the reasons you mention: I find the music fleeter, clearer, brighter, and more intimate. For the St Matthew Passion specifically, my favourite version is Philippe Herreweghe's second recording. Herreweghe is the one interpreter of Bach's choral and vocal music that I would put ahead of Suzuki, but both are excellent.

I didn't yet read the articles you linked about Suzuki, but it is well-known in the music world that he's a devout Christian, and sees his performances of Bach as having religious, as well as aesthetic, significance for him. Perhaps something of that spirit is coming through in the "contemplative" dimension that you noticed.

I'm glad to hear about improvements at eMusic. Downloading my music from them has become quite convoluted in recent months as their downloader has stopped working properly with my Mac.

"Or baroque"--yes, that's why I didn't capitalize "classical" and "romantic". :-) I've always thought it odd that "baroque" applied to art suggests extremely ornate, but applied to music suggests relative restraint or simplicity.

The whole cantata series! Wow. My enthusiasm for the cantatas doesn't go anywhere near that far. They certainly have their magnificent moments but there are some pretty dull stretches.

The first of those articles I linked to is by Damien Thompson, and is as much about Suzuki's faith as his music. I think you'll find it interesting.

I found a lot of recommendations for Herrewhege when I was scouting. One or the other of his recordings seem to be generally considered up there with the very best.

Interesting Damian Thompson article, but this left me scratching my head:

Suzuki is a member of the Reformed Church in Japan, which adheres to Calvin’s teaching that the fate of the soul at death is ‘predestined’ by God. The Lord already knows whether people are headed for paradise or damnation, and there is absolutely nothing they can do to influence their eternal fate. ...

Suzuki doesn’t question for a moment that unbelievers are lost; but he is confident that the Lord can change hearts through music. Moreover, that music doesn’t need to be attached to religious words to do the work of salvation.

I find the Calvinist doctrine of predestination so confusing. Just how can music work to bring about salvation for those predestined to hell?

When predestination and free will are discussed my general policy is to throw up my hands and say "It's a mystery." :-)

We used to get into these discussion in C. S. Lewis meetings because we met in a Presbyterian seminary. When we got onto the subject of predestination or faith and works, I would always say, I have no idea how that works, and that all I have to say.

AMDG

They were always pretty amazed that I had nothing to say.

AMDG

"how that works" is a good way to put it. Because it does apparently work. God does know, and we do have a choice.

"When predestination and free will are discussed my general policy is to throw up my hands and say "It's a mystery.""

Quite right, but I find Calvinism to be pretty yucky.

I am listening to the St Matthew Passion right now, and have listened to it a lot, but I haven't heard the version Maclin has written about here, so I'll do that.

Baroque is probably my favourite music.

I don't really think I know enough about Calvinism, meaning what Calvin actually said, to say what I think about it. Though I can say that the ecclesiastical manifestations of it are pretty off-putting, and that's probably indicative.

I would have said baroque is my favorite at one time. I wouldn't say that now, not because I like baroque less but because I like others more. I'd still say that if I could only have one composer's music it would be Bach's.

I've discovered that I have a reservation about this performance, in addition to the one about the strings: the soloist for the alto parts is a countertenor. I'd really rather have a female voice there. In that aria I posted here, I kept thinking "That alto sounds kind of masculine." Yeah.

It's not unusual, btw, in fact it may be the norm in "authentic" performances.

Just became aware that the Pittsburgh Symphony is doing Bruckner's 8th at the end of the month, one performance only! It's a bit of a rarity to hear it live because it's so long, but apparently it's our conductor Manfred Honeck's favorite symphony. (Honeck, btw, is a devout Catholic, as was Bruckner.)

You're going, I hope?

Yes, certainly planning to! I saw them do Bruckner 4 a couple years ago and it was excellent -- the recording of it got a Grammy nomination. It may be that this will be recorded as well.

In the last few years the recordings coming from the Pittsburgh Symphony under Honeck have been getting rave reviews. I've bought a few of them and loved them.

I was fortunate enough to be at the concert back in 2006 which, unbeknownst to most of the audience, sealed the deal for his becoming our next musical director.

He was very much an unknown quantity at that time, as he was largely unfamiliar to American classical music listeners. But he's turned out to be a huge success.

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