Energy and power
The Bach Collegium Japan performance of the St John Passion, experienced by KEITH BRAMICH
'Show us by Thy passion that thou, the true son of God, at all times, even in times of
deepest lowliness, have been exalted!'
J S Bach would almost certainly have been astounded and intrigued to know that, 250 years
after his death, a respected group of Japanese musicians would travel to his homeland to give
concerts in his honour, and then, even stranger, that they would return to Asia and
make a worldwide TV broadcast of the St John Passion [listen --
track 41, 'Durch dein Gefängnis'].
The Suntory Hall Johannespassion. DVD still frame © 2000 EuroArts
Bach wrote the St John Passion in 1724 for Good Friday at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig,
and performed it four times, making a different performing version on each occasion.
These days a modern hybrid is normally used, but conductor Masaaki Suzuki
makes use of Bach's fourth (1749) version (returning closest to the 1724 original)
for this historic performance from Tokyo.
The result is an accomplished and moving original instrument performance using
excellent soloists from both Europe (notably German tenor Gerd Türk as the Evangelist,
and brief, magical contributions from English countertenor Robin Blaze [listen -- track 59, 'Es ist vollbracht']) and Japan.
During a short video interview on
the disc, Suzuki (a former student of Ton Koopman) comments on the success of Bach's
message when transported to Japan, performed by Japanese people and broadcast
internationally, and on the strong energy and power that he feels from Bach's music.
The production is excellent, and the camerawork fairly unobtrusive. The Suntory Hall
audience is noticeably quiet (unlike the lunchtime concert I attended there last year --
see below), presumably not having been invited to join in the chorales, and
distractions during this two-hour performance are minimal.
Masaaki Suzuki directing the St John Passion. DVD still frame © 2000 EuroArts
Sound and picture quality are also very good. Some visual artifacts are noticeable
whenever there's fast movement -- look at Suzuki's right hand in the
screen shot above to see this effect. This is fairly normal for compressed video
formats, and it's only really a problem here during camera pans. Subtitles are
available in English, French, Italian and Spanish, as well as the original German.
Timing-wise, the English subtitles are spot-on, and I noticed only a couple of
I'm reviewing the EuroArts/TDK version packaged for DVD region 2 (Japan, South Africa,
Europe), but it's also available for region 1 (Canada, USA and US territories) on the
Image Entertainment label, although packaged, apparently, with less booklet information.
Copyright © 19 April 2003
Keith Bramich, Worcestershire, UK
BUY THIS EUROPEAN FORMAT DVD FROM CROTCHET
BUY THE US FORMAT DVD FROM AMAZON.COM
ROBIN BLAZE TALKS TO RODERIC DUNNETT
BACH IN GOOD HANDS (MASAAKI SUZUKI), WITH BASIL RAMSEY
LUNCHTIME AT SUNTORY HALL
BACH COLLEGIUM JAPAN
THE J S BACH HOMEPAGE
PERSPECTIVES ON THE ST JOHN PASSION AND THE JEWS
Johannespassion - Bach at the Suntory Hall in Tokyo
DV-BAJPN DVD-9 / PAL / LPCM / AC3 / DTS 16:9 Region code ALL 120' 2001 EuroArts/TDK
Midori Suzuki, soprano; Robin Blaze, countertenor; Gerd Türk, tenor; Chiyuki Urano, bass baritone, Stephan MacLeod, bass; Bach Collegium Japan; Masaaki Suzuki, conductor; Shokichi Amano, director; Akira Sugiura, producer for NHK; Paul Smaczny, producer for EuroArts Music International
J S Bach: St John Passion BWV245; Documentary - 'Interview with Masaaki Suzuki'
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