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Fanfare Magazine: 37:1 (09-10/2013) 
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Reviewer: George Chien

Stephen Layton has recorded the Neue Bach-Ausgabe edition of the St. John Passion, which was never actually performed by Bach, but has probably become for our time the default version of Bach’s ever-evolving score. Layton has no great surprises in store for us; he leads a performance that is satisfying, though perhaps not thoroughly riveting. Ian Bostridge is a moving Evangelist; Neal Davies a capable Jesus. Carolyn Sampson’s clear, bright soprano tops a strong solo quartet. I liked Iestyn Davies’s refreshingly warm countertenor as well. Polyphony, Layton’s superb, 31-voice choir, is outstanding throughout, as are the instrumentalists of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Layton’s direction is thoughtful and comfortably paced, and his interpretation affecting. The great opening and closing choruses are treasurable. It’s a good recording, worth a hearing, but one of many that will probably stay on my shelf. John Eliot Gardiner’s Archiv recording is still my benchmark, though Monica Huggett’s idiosyncratic version (Avie) leaves a lasting impression.

Following a longstanding (personal) tradition, Layton has three chorales sung partially without instruments. Fully accompanied versions are sung in an appendix. Fortunately Hyperion has left ample blank space after the end of the Passion for listeners to halt playback before the appendix begins.

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