Bach: St John Passion (CD Review - The Observer, 2013)

Conductor Stephen Layton, top soloists, the expert choir of Polyphony and the incomparable Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment perform the St John Passion annually at St John’s Smith Square. It’s always a sell-out. Bach revised the work several times. Layton has honed his preferred version, but only aficionados will notice or mind. Concentrate instead on the purity of sound, the emotionally expressive yet restrained performance by all and the impeccable attention to text of the soloists. Ian Bostridge (Evangelist) lives every word of the narration but never over dramatises. Countertenor Iestyn Davies ’s almost disembodied account of Es ist vollbracht! (It is fi nished!) is unforgettable.

Fiona Maddocks 

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