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4.0 étoiles sur 5 Great singing but not a great German digital transfer, 11 juillet 2011
Achat vérifié(De quoi s'agit-il ?)
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Bach : Passion selon Saint Jean (CD)
Here we have a power-horse of a St. John Passion that might be considered top of the crop.
Strangely enough; though since its debut in 1961 on LPs, it belonged to the EMI group, but has never seen the day of light in England, and yet, it bravely stood the test of time throughout the German EMI Electrola LP releases in all of its various German pressing editions, starting with the debuted edition, ancient Electrola, rare original Stereo 80-668-70 (3-LPs), the one with the white-golden-rim label...!

The recording was made in the Grünwaldkirche, Berlin, a church that was extensively used for other Electrola Bach arias and cantatas and for various other church music recordings, sometimes with the Berlin Symphoniker and with the St. Hedwigs-Kathedrale choir, conducted by Karl Forster.

This St. Johannes-passion is boasting with top singers: Fritz Wunderlish as the Evangelist; Dietrish-Fischer-Dieskau as Jesus; Chrisian Kohn (bass) as Petrus & Pelatus; Elisabeth Grümmer (Soprano); Christa Ludwig (alto); Josef Traxel (tenor arias).
St. Hedwigs-Kathedrale Berlin choir; Berliner Symphoniker with solo instrumentalist's which are members of the orchestra conducted by Karl Foster. As can be expected from a 1961 reading, the style and forces involved are of the 'old-school' guard - full bloodied choir and orchestra.

It is most conceivable that Fritz Wunderlich in this recording is the best evangelist one could wish for, vocally and stylishly he is the most successful of them all. The voice is fresh, tuned, and with great shading, pitch and nuances throughout.
Like all of the other soloists the voices are captured in focus, not too upfront, but in a clear spacious atmosphere and the sound as a whole have great presence and good sound-stage spread. (One shouldn't forget that those early late fifties and early sixties recordings were made with tube-gear and that the old tapes should lend themselves quite harmonically correct to the digital transfer processes).

Soprano Elisabeth Grümmer in this recording exhibits a silvery shimmer, light lyric, well pitched-tone of voice which is a delight to the ear, and Fischer-Dieskau (quite a small role of Jesus) sings with dignity and with perfect tuned-in vision of his singing lines.
Joseph Traxel tackles the tenor arias in a perfect projected voice and Christian Kohn bass with a creamy deep-registered voice sings both roles of Petrus and of Pilatus while making a clear differentiation between the two roles.

The icing on the cake is Christa Ludwig (mezzo-Soprano) who on this recording, in the original edition of Electrola white-golden-rim label Stereo LPs - is classified as "Alto". The manner of singing this genius talented singer adopts here is an oratorio-style (devoid of operatic mannerism). Her singing style here is long stokes legato with huge breath-control and with tamed vibrato that is kept for the lowest lingering notes, and the hue she adopts has an alto-like beauty of the voice. Surely her singing of the 'Es ist volbracht' can, and will, bring tears to the eye.

Some might wonder why I endowed this magnificent 2-CD set with only four stars:
Two reasons:
First: The booklet (11 pages on a very thin paper) does not include text and translation; just tracks numbering, title division, and some not too related topics. A full text and translation is needed for those who do not understand German, and the booklet could easily be enlarged (on that sort of thin paper) to include the text which is not very lengthy.
The German digital transfer of those magnificent Electrola old tube recorded tapes is marred by an un-called for equalization that lends the sound an up-tilt in the midrange and higher midrange frequencies and robs the bloom and harmonic integrity of the early analogue tapes from shining through. There is a constant thinness of the sound (less audible on the soloists' voices) and with it some 'grain' and un-comfortable mechanically hue with slight unfocused orchestral and choir passages sound.
(Having the original early white-gold-rime Electrola LP pressings, gave me the formidable opportunity to gain more audible insights into the recording than what this present-day CD offering ever could...)

It just might be that listeners to this 2-CD set would not find the digital transfer lacking, or that they would never really come to know the beauty and the sonic integrity of the 'real-thing' found with the original LPs Electrola edition.
I wonder what 'miracles' a true good British EMI digital transfer would bring to light here (considering other Forster recording from this very same age made in the Grünwaldkirche, Berlin, and I am thinking of the Fischer-Dieskau Bach cantatas and arias, which enjoys an honest un-equalized transfer, made by a true British EMI).

There is another edition of this very same recording shown on Amazon pages (B000026NYQ - 1 October 1999). Looking carefully at the back cover of both one can see that both versions are "made in the EU" (either in Germany or in Holland).
THIS FACT VOIDS THE NOTION that this "later edition" (B00496HVU - 4 July 2011) is a true British EMI remastering; it is simply not. What it means is that that stocks of the early edition is already dwindling and a second prints of that recording is already here... Hence, I venture to predict that both versions are one and the same with all of the hindrances mentioned thus far (for this edition: B000026NYQ - 1 October 1999).

One thing is clear: The sound of the German digital transfer combined with the booklet-less presentation, and combined with the steep asking price - all these are hindrances; hence - four stars.
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