HD-Vinyl 24/96 (Archiv) Johann Sebastian Bach – Johannes-Passion (Richter)

All thanks for this masterwork go to Jean-Luc
In his day, Karl Richter was considered a Bach “specialist.” We accord that title nowadays, if at all, to purveyors of period performance practice–and rightly so. But there’s something to be gained by appreciating earlier conceptions of how this music should go. If you favor a more “traditional” approach to Bach’s sacred music, featuring a large chorus, modern instruments and “operatic”-style singers, then you can’t do better than Richter’s 1964 account of the St. John Passion.

Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer: Münchener Bach-Chor, Regensburger Domspatzen,
Ernst Häfliger, Hertha Töpper, Hermann Prey, Evelyn Lear
Orchestra: Münchener Bach-Orchester
Conductor: Karl Richter
Vinyl 1964
Number of discs: 3
Format: Flac
Label: Archiv
DR 14
Size: 3.1 GB
Scan: yes
Server: FF

There are few Bach performances on record as compelling as this. Richter’s direction evinces a profound understanding of how Bach’s theological convictions informed his musico-dramatic treatment of the Passion story. He paces the sacred drama to perfection, particularly in the great trial scene that constitutes the central panel of Part II, in which he allows the intensity to build inexorably as the principal “characters” (the turba being one of them) act out their preordained roles, as in a Greek tragedy. I know of no other conductor who highlights Bach’s text-painting so insightfully in such sections as the turba “Wir haben keinen König,” the chorale “In meinen Herzens Gründen” or the chorus of Roman centurians casting lots for Jesus’ robe (to cite just three among many such instances). Richter’s most impressive moment, however, comes at the very end of the piece, with his gradually intensifying, then near-apocalyptic account of “Ach, Herr, lass’ dein lieb’ Engelein.” Once heard, never forgotten.

Richter’s noble conception of this work would be ineffectual if he didn’t have first-rate musicians to work with. But he does. The Munich Bach Choir, as usual, cover themselves in glory. For such a large group their rhythmic articulation and diction are phenomenal, as is their capacity for realizing the contrasting “affects” inscribed in the various chorale settings interspersed throughout the work. The instrumental ensemble responds with extraordinary precision and élan to Richter’s often challenging tempos and careful highlighting of textural detail; obbligati are rendered with expressive phrasing and considerable virtuosity. Among the vocal soloists, Haefliger is a rivetingly dramatic narrator and Herman Prey a warmly human (if occasionally stentorian) Christus. If Lear and Töpper are less than idiomatic Bach singers, they project the texts of their arias with passionate conviction, and that counts for more, in the end, than stylistic accuracy. In the Bass arias, Keith Engen sings expressively, if a bit heavily; “Eilt, ihr angefocht’nen Seelen” is particularly eloquent.

A mandatory acquisition for “traditionalists” and any listener who is curious about the legacy of this outstanding Bach interpreter.

 Analyzed folder: /96k JSB – Johannes-Passion – Richter
 DR        Peak        RMS        Filename
 DR13        -0.68 dB     -18.39 dB     sideA.aif
 DR14        -0.63 dB     -19.00 dB     sideB.aif
 DR13        -0.75 dB     -20.32 dB     sideC.aif
 DR11        -0.80 dB     -17.63 dB     sideD.aif
 DR15        -0.51 dB     -22.02 dB     sideE.aif
 DR12        -0.62 dB     -18.48 dB     sideF.aif
 Number of files:    6
 Official DR value:    DR13


  • Alto Vocals – Hertha Töpper
  • Baritone Vocals – Hermann Prey
  • Bass Vocals – Kieth Engen
  • Bassoon – Detlev Kühl, Karl Kolbinger
  • Cello – Kurt Engert
  • Choir – Münchener Bach-Chor
  • Composed By – Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Conductor – Karl Richter
  • Contrabass – Fritz Ortner
  • Flute – Walter Theurer
  • Liner Notes – Hans Hickmann
  • Lute – Karl Scheit
  • Oboe [Da Caccia] – Edgar Shann, Kurt Hausmann
  • Orchestra – Münchener Bach-Orchester
  • Organ – Hedwig Bilgram
  • Producer – Dr. Manfred Richter
  • Recording Supervisor – Heinz Wildhagen
  • Soprano Vocals – Evelyn Lear
  • Tenor Vocals [Evangelist] – Ernst Häfliger
  • Viola [Da Gamba], Cello [VIoloncello], Cello – Oswald Uhl
  • Viola d’Amore – Christian Stier, Valentin Härtel

Ripping Info


  • Software: iZotope RX 4 Advanced, Adobe Audition CS 5.5, Twisted Wave 1.9
  • Super light de-clicking with iZotope, significant clicks manually removing, no de-noising
  • DR-Analisys before converting to Flac
  • Converting Wave -> Flac: Twisted Wave 1.9
  • Artwork: Sony Alpha 350, Epson Perfection V750 Pro, Photoshop CS 5.5

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10 thoughts on “HD-Vinyl 24/96 (Archiv) Johann Sebastian Bach – Johannes-Passion (Richter)

  1. Alf,
    The summary notes you included above are both accurate and enlightening, especially when few if any reviews are currently available (I looked).

    This is likely the smoothest, yet most sensitive dramatic performance of a Bach Passion I’ve heard. It “hangs dramatically together,” not just a perfunctory musical concert job. Everybody seems to be engaged with the text and drama. I’m enjoying it immensely.
    I know this is not a religious site, but I can’t help but say this: Bach had a grasp of the theological yield of the Gospel of John to show Jesus as the obedient “new Adam” who redeems through His perfect life as well as his atoning death and resurrection.
    Thanks as well to Jean Luc for this rich gift.

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