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Masaaki Suzuki and his Bach Collegium Japan have long been a force to be reckoned with when it comes to performing Bach – three decades’ worth, to be precise. This is their second recording of the St Matthew Passion, and of course they have performed it in concert many times over the years. The new recording bears all the hallmarks of what is best about Suzuki’s approach – light textures (choral and instrumental) and beautifully shaped phrasing which never sounds contrived, to name just two. Coming to what many consider to be Bach’s finest achievement after having performed and recorded the entire church cantata cycle has certainly brought the group’s approach into sharper focus. With excellent soloists, including a fine Evangelist in Benjamin Bruns, well-focused choral ensemble and exquisite instrumental playing, this is Suzuki’s Bach at its best. One special feature of the recording concerns Suzuki’s decision to use a large organ (as, he argues, Bach would have done) rather than the small chamber organs we have become accustomed to.

PHILIP REED Read the full review on Agora Classica

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