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Peter Quantrill
Gramophone, May 2018

Ralf Otto’s direction of his 60-strong choir and period ensemble is never short on rhythmic impetus, though he goes his own way in pointing the chorales, elongating some pause marks while sailing over others, and he does like a spaciously marked cadence. Native and forthright feeling for the poetry offers partial compensation for a rather blankly rhetorical delivery of the recitatives: there’s nothing vocally to object to in Georg Poplutz’s Evangelist or the Christus of Yorck Felix Speer… © 2018 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Johan van Veen
MusicWeb International, April 2018

A choir of this size is definitely not in line with what we know about ‘choirs’ in Bach’s time. However, musically it has no negative effect on the performance of the tutti sections at all. In fact, these are the best parts of this performance. The Bachchor Mainz is a fine ensemble: it shows great flexibility in those turbae which are performed at a high speed, and produces a surprisingly transparent sound, also thanks to the good acoustic of the Christuskirche in Mainz. © 2018 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Remy Franck
Pizzicato, February 2018

Ralf Otto, his ensemble and his soloists give a very dramatic, almost operatic account of Bach’s St John Passion. © 2018 Pizzicato

David Denton
David's Review Corner, February 2018

Johann Sebastian Bach wrote four Passion settings, one for each of the gospels, but only those from St. John and St. Matthew have survived in their original entirety. “Bach’s numerous revisions always demand a certain amount of scholarly decision-making, and this recording of the St. John Passion uses the final 1749 version”, states the disc’s back insert. There comes the rub, for the scholarly approach of the conductor, Ralf Otto, stops short of having boys in the choir, which the composer would certainly have used, and instead he has taken the easier option of using female voices. To hear the immense difference this brings about you will have to turn to Naxos’s hugely acclaimed version from Edward Higginbottom and the Choir of New College, Oxford (8.557296-97). Released in 2003, it had a limited circulation, but it was an object lesson in a scholarly performance, taking us back to the days of the composer with a boy treble also used in the solo part that nowadays is allocated to a soprano. So what do have in this new release? Probably best described as a modern halfway-house that uses a period instrument orchestra, mixed chorus, a male alto soloist and a female soprano. It also includes the additional sections that appeared in Bach’s original 1725 version on additional tracks. That would require some intricate reprogramming to get yourself back to 1725, but it could have been achieved if only the disc’s editor had come up with the good idea of placing part of them at the end on the first disc instead of having them all on the second disc, which now makes it impossible. Otto’s performance is very urgent throughout, and almost operatic in concept, the fast tempi keeping the action moving forward, and does not overly exaggerate the sadness of the story. The soloists are very good, with the lightweight and flexible voice of the tenor, Georg Poplutz, being right for the Evangelist’s story-telling role, while Julia Kleiter is a pure voiced soprano, and Yorck Felix Speer a very lyric bass. The Bachchor is a conventional well-balanced modern group, and maybe the warm sonority of the Christuskirche in Mainz has smoothed out the period credentials of the Bachorchester. It comes in time for the religious Easter Sunday as the composer intended, and makes a timely reminder of a dreadful historic event. © 2018 David’s Review Corner

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