Addressing such deep human emotions, Bach’s passions have long assumed a universality that transcends their origins as Lutheran service music. In an ever-burgeoning discography of the St Matthew Passion , the latest contribution comes from the French group Pygmalion directed by Raphaël Pichon, who sees the work structured in six principal “actions,” similar to a French tragédie lyrique , with its prologue and five acts. 

Raphaël Pichon

Whether or not one finds that analogy helpful, Pichon undoubtedly directs a thoughtful account of the score, aided in no small part by Julian Prégardien, whose engaging Evangelist reveals a naturally gifted storyteller, not unlike his famous father. Stéphane Degout as Jesus presents a touching combination of strength and vulnerability.

Amongst the other soloists Lucile Richardot stands out for a gorgeously shaped Ebarme dich subtly enhanced by the theorbo in the continuo group, while tenor Reinoud Van Mechelen invests O Schmerz with the urgency of deepening tragedy and Christian Immler’s