Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Christ crucified, Bach buried alive

Oh for some hysterically informed performance
The ovation for last night’s St John Passion, given by Stephen Layton, Polyphony and the OAE, was depressingly stürmisch, though seeing as Harnoncourt is the local benchmark this should be viewed from a certain perspective. In reality it was a poor Passion by any standard: wretched playing throughout from the OAE (whose viola d’amores hit an ‘Erwäge’ rock bottom), an Ian Bostridge who meted out mutilation to music and text while sounding terribly pained himself, and clueless conducting from Stephen Layton. The polite version of this review is, incidentally, here.

I was fairly soft on Polyphony because the main choral problem lay with the insanity of HIP dogma: to see Layton trying to coerce a full, massed sound out of 26 people and hear so much vocal forcing as a result was a hard test of endurance. If 
any performance were validation for larger numbers, this was it. As Layton didn’t seem unduly concerned by what was going on in the pit, there also arose a perverse contrast between the heavily regulated singing on stage and lack of ensemble in the orchestra.

Still, if you click through you’ll see that we are on a headshot roll.

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