Easter weekend, the Japanese Bach specialist Masaaki Suzuki, conducting from the harpsichord and dedicating this concert to the victims of the tragedy in Japan, broke the long string of poor BSO Bach performances with a compellingly vigorous, emphatically "narrative" St. John Passion (Bach's final version from 1749), though it was neither consistently moving nor probing. Slow chorales tended to sag, and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus took half the evening to get its accustomed clarity into focus. At the final concert, tenor Christoph Prégardien, a touching Evangelist, was clearly suffering from a cold, and tenor William Hite came in for the two difficult tenor arias Prégardien was supposed to sing. One of them, though, was from a different version of the Passion, and the substitution compromised Masaaki's unusual decision to have the Evangelist and Jesus (bass-baritone Hanno Müller-Bachmann) sing not only their character roles but also the more poetic, personal responses of the arias.
Czech soprano Hana Blázíková sang with a pure white-gold gleam, but German alto Ingeborg Danz was hard to hear over even this reduced orchestra. David Kravitz subtly characterized the small roles of Peter and Pilate. By closing night, the orchestra, with its outstanding winds and continuo section, had managed to balance its modern instruments with Suzuki's historical-performance ideas.
Sad news: Peter Lieberson — whose music found a receptive audience at the BSO, especially his Neruda Songs, which he wrote for his wife Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, who sang them here only a short time before her death — has died of lymphoma after long periods of illness and remission. He was 64.
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