The day started with the partial destruction of one masterpiece – Notre-Dame de Paris. It ended with the partial resurrection of another – Bach’s St Matthew Passion. I say partial, because Dr Joseph Nolan’s editionof the latter, last heard in St George’s Cathedral in 2014, cuts Bach’s from nearly three and a half hours to around two; it also presents all the chorales a cappella.
Joseph Nolan, the West Australian Symphony Orchestra and St George’s Cathedral Consort. Photo © WASO
Bach wasn’t above making all sorts of changes himself, and the differences between his 1727 version and 1736 revision are numerous. But personally, I think lopping an hour and a half off makes about as much dramatic and musical sense as cutting, say, operas of similar length such as Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalieror Verdi’s Don Carlos. Such a pity, for example, to so abruptly go from the opening chorus to the the soprano aria Ich will dir mein Herze schenkenand its preceding recitative, leaving us bereft of such gems as Blute nurand Buss und Reu.
Singing the chorales exclusively unaccompanied (well,...