Bach: St. Matthew Passion (Emmanuel Music)

Bach: St. Matthew Passion, Emmanuel Music, 3/31 and 4/2/17

Charles Blandy shouldered the taxing role of the Evangelist with aplomb, delivering reams of text as naturally as if were discussing the Bruins’ post-season prospects. His dexterity and diction masked the tremendous vocal control required to navigate Bach’s often craggy tenor recitatives and deliver them with flawless intonation and velvet tone. For example, when Jesus declares to his disciples “Truly I say to you: one among you will betray me”, the Evangelist sets up the following chorus (“Lord, is it I?”), describing their agitation (“And they were very troubled and began, each among them, to say to him:”) with appropriately agitated leaps over an crunchy diminished sonority on a basso E. This is one of dozens of tricky passages that Blandy dispatched with ease and beauty.

However, when the text demanded that the he slip from his role as narrator into something resembling another tormented member of the congregation, when he needed to display emotion to draw us into the anguish of the Passion narrative, Blandy chose his expressions carefully and delivered them with razor sharp precision. He introduced the quietude and stillness of Gethsemane (No. 18), slowing the tempo and hushing his voice to a whisper. He punctuated Christ’s death on the cross (No. 61e). He brought a dark gravity to Pilate’s command to guard the tomb (No. 66c). And he endowed Jesus’s silence in the face of judgement with meaning and gravity (No. 33).

Matthew Heck, Boston Musical Intelligencer

Tenor Charles Blandy brought bright power, fine diction, and conviction to the punishing role of the Evangelist, his voice coloring the music in sorrowful shades when he told of Jesus’ death.

Aaron Keebaugh, Boston Classical Review