The critics’ reviews of St Matthew Passion in the Philharmonie were full of superlatives. The radio station RBB Kultur considered it to be “a moment of glory for Rattle! And one of the best evenings with the Philharmoniker for years.« Media praise didn’t stop at the Berliner Philharmoniker and their principal conductor but extended to what is called the “ritualization” by American star director Peter Sellars. According to the Berliner Zeitung, this semi-staged presentation provided “the most moving concert and music theatre event of the season”.
For Berlin’s Tagesspiegel, “the stars of these three and a half hours [...] were the dazzlingly bright and powerful voices of the boys from the Berlin Staats- und Domchor (chorus master Kai-Uwe Jirka) and the Rundfunkchor, magnificently rehearsed by Simon Halsey. The notorious chaos sections such as ‘Ja nicht auf das Fest’ and the cries for Christ to be crucified, succeeded in a way that was both transparent and natural, developing from the uproar in an almost improvised manner that can only be marvelled at.”
Of course, the soloists also played their part in the success of the evening. The Berliner Morgenpost wrote: “Christian Gerharer sings the role of Christ superbly and unfalteringly from among the audience, from a balcony to the left of the concert stage. [...] Meanwhile Mark Padmore controls the stage, singing the Evangelist with his almost inexhaustible tenor voice, giving full expression to every nuance. [...] Padmore is approached in turn by [...] the wonderfully sonorous Swedish soprano Camilla Tilling [...] and the grandiose Magdalena Kožená with her voluptuosly expansive alto voice [...]: one miraculous singing voice joins another. Thomas Quasthoff gives a most vivid performance of the bass arias [...] singing them with incomparable nobility. The excellent Finnish singer Topi Lehtipuu embraced the tenor arias with slenderness and intensity.”