Music good 88.
(photo credit: )
Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra
Bach: St. Matthew Passion
In Bach's St. Matthew Passion, presumably performed in celebration of Pessah, the historical date of the plot, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra itself played a remarkably significant part.
Leon Botstein, above all an orchestra conductor, seemed to have invested much of his attention in the instruments. The orchestra sounded extremely well-rehearsed, firmly consolidated and in particular, the many instrumental solos were outstanding and impeccably polished. Botstein wisely adopted tempi that were not dragging and would-be solemn, accomplishing vibrancy and tension.
Uku Joller's sonorous bass, especially in the lower register, impersonated a dignified, moving Jesus, emphasizing the human tragedy of the tormented idealist rather than the theological aspects of his message.
The Evangelist was impressively represented by Immo Schroeder's appealing tenor, refraining tastefully from too-dramatic accentuations.
Rahel Frenkel's warm, rich mezzo-soprano was particularly enjoyable. Claire Meghnagi displayed a bright, radiant soprano, though too shrill and lacking softness on the high notes.
The New Vocal Ensemble and the Kibbutz Artzi Choir were most effective in the frenzied outcries of the fanatic mob, such as "Let him be crucified." After a warm-up period in the first part, where they still sounded weaker than one would expect of such a large group, their energies and volume increased audibly after the intermission. In Part Two, they then achieved a rich sound and intense involvement.
In all, it was a performance that did full justice to the monumental work.