Deus Passus is one quarter of the Passion Project 2000, which celebrated not only the turning of the millennium but also commemorated the 250th anniversary of Bach’s death. German conductor Helmuth Rilling honored this occasion by commissioning Passions from four disparate composers: Wolfgang Rihm, Tan Dun, Sofia Gubaidulina, and Osvaldo Golijov. Deus Passus is a setting of the Passion according to St. Luke, and it is a marvel of a piece for many reasons. For a full hour and a half, with music that is mostly slow and largely atonal (in the sense that Berg’s music is atonal), the twisting, aching, unpredictable harmonies are totally captivating. Rihm chooses a straightforward setting, a simple, dramatic telling of the story, and it is in his capacity for restraint that the true brilliance of the piece lies. He uses the chorus sparingly, mostly for dramatic purposes, having it portray the angry rabble bent on crucifying Jesus (as it often does in Bach’s passions).
"Helmuth Rilling realisiert die stilistische Spannweite der Chöre vom nazarenischen a cappella über impressionistische Koloristik, einem fast Brahms'schen Sentiment, bis zur dramatischen Wucht vollkommen."~FonoForum
… Born in 1933 in Stuttgart, Germany, Helmuth Rilling is an active conductor, pedagogue and ambassador for the music of Bach worldwide. From 1970 to 1984, Mr. Rilling was the first musician to record all of Bach's Cantatas, and was the guiding hand behind the Internationale Bachakademie's critically-acclaimed project to record the complete works of Bach (172 CDs), which was released in 2000 to coincide with the 250th Anniversary of Bach's death. Since 1970, he has been the Artistic Director of the Oregon Bach Festival. In 2003 he became an Honorary Member of the American Academy of the Arts and Sciences. He won a Grammy® Award in 2000 for his recording of Krzystof Penderecki's “Credo” and was again nominated in 2001 for his recording of Wolfgang Rihm's "Deus Passus." In 2008, he was honored with the Sanford Award by the Yale School of Music at Yale University…
Although Helmut Rilling's tempos are sometimes too plodding (the opening Introitus, for example), he makes up for it elsewhere–in an emphatic Recordare and smoothly flowing Benedictus. And while the chorus has a somewhat saturated, conglomerate sound, its impact is nevertheless substantial, not only in the fullest, loudest sections, but also in the quieter passages, which come off as more evenly balanced. Soloists, on the other hand, are absolutely clear if perhaps just a bit too up-front, and the orchestra, which fares well overall, gets swallowed in the mix when the entire chorus is singing. Rilling requires keen articulation from his players and singers, which although normally a good thing sometimes (as in the opening of the Confutatis) seems overly deliberate and stifles the music's natural momentum. –David Vernier
C.P.E. Bach's "Magnificat" is one of the glories of the choral repertoire, and, like other reviewers, I envy you your first experience of this magnificent music. I first heard it in the impressive performance by Philip Ledger and the Academy of St.-Martin-in-the-Fields. I think Rilling's performance is even better, though, more supple and nuanced, without sacrificing speed and intensity.
In the liner notes to this premiere recording of his completion, Levin says: "The completed version offered in this recording, however, seeks to respect the 200-year-old history of the Requiem . We have tried not to revise as much, but as little as possible and in a manner we fee it faithful to the character, writing, voice leading, design and structure of Mozart's music."