Just got mine!
Just another listener | United States | 09/23/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Delivery was timely, but the CD box was damaged: corner wear, and a two-inch tear along the hinge of the box lid. I lay this at the feet of Amazon as they did not package the CD into its shipping carton protectively at all.
Most of the CDs are DDD; those that are not are ADD.
Of course I have not listened to all the CDs yet. The first Brandenberg CD I listened to sounded trebly to me, but maybe this is the piece itself or the period instruments. The one I am listening to now sounds great, except I wish I could hear the excellent harpsichord playing more clearly. It is as if the harpsichord is in the back of the room and the microphones are up front with the traverso. One of the reasons I went with this Bach set is that it was recorded using harpsichord not piano; I'm a little disappointed. Faint harpsichord is a particular travesty for a Brandenberg concerto as Bach wrote these as a 'job application'. Those who claim to know believe Mr. Bach wrote the harpsichord parts for these concertos exactly as he would have played it to impress his prospective employers. This was kinda unusual as keyboard musicians of the time were expected to ad lib upon the written music liberally. Ya gotta have the harpsichord up front for a Brandenberg concerto!
But this is just the second CD, so we'll see. I hope to update this review as I proceed through the set.
12/8/2009 update: I have listened to most of the concertos and find them quite acceptable. Some of the partitas bore me to tears; I don't know whether to blame Bach or the performances. There's a violin partita which is particularly lifeless and dull, and a lute partita which is nearly as bad. Therefore, I skipped ahead as I was getting listener fatigue.
I skipped ahead to Weihnachtsoratorium (Christmas oratorium, aka BWV 248) since Advent has started. This one is performed by the Harry Christophers with period instruments, female soloists (plenty of vibrato, if you care) and adult mixed choir. The evangelist (the guy who sings the Bible passages) has a pure, soaring tenor voice I enjoy quite a bit, and the other soloists are quite acceptable. I could wish for crisper German diction from some of them. This seems to be the same recording available separately under Harry Christophers here on Amazon. For the boy choir sound, or all-Y-chromosome authenticity, or crisp German diction, you have to look elsewhere. For what it is, though, it's pretty good!
The Mass in B Minor is likewise performed by the Harry Christophers. The soloist James Bowman is identified as 'alto', which would make him a counter tenor instead of an alto. Again, we have male and female soloists, adult mixed choir, and period instruments. A lot of what I said about the Weihnachtsoratorium applies also to this work insofar as it is performed also by the Christophers. I'm not quite as enthused about this recording as I am about 248. The instrumental interpretation is great; tympani and brass bring joy and excitement, the cello evokes sorrow -- but I prefer the singing of some other recordings I have heard to the singing of this performance. I'm not disparaging this singing as much as I am making a statement about taste.
I'll try to update again when I review more of the CDs. Thanks to those who found the first part of my review helpful!
Astounding value, but 5 items are missing
David H. Bailey | SF Bay Area, USA | 10/27/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an absolutely astounding value -- the works of Bach, performed very well, for only about 70c (US) per CD! Don't just stand there -- buy it!
Be advised however that a handful of items are missing: First of all, although the documentation mentions the St. Mark Passion (CD V-22 and V-23) and the St. Luke Passion (CD V-24 and V-25), these items are not actually included in the set -- they are not even listed in the directory of vocal works on the inside lid (and these CDs contain other selections).
Secondly, CD III-23 should contain Cantatas #178, 146 and 27 -- the documentation, cover index, CD jacket and the CD itself all list these cantata numbers as the contents of this CD. Instead, I found that this CD contains Cantatas #75, 59, 21; indeed, its contents are identical to that of CD IV-20. So in other words, Cantatas #178, 146 and 27 are nowhere in the collection, possibly due to an error in production. This is the case in my set, but I suspect that many other sets may have the same flaw. I wrote the publisher, however, and they were kind enough to send me a new version of CD III-23.
Aside from these glitches, the set is very much worth the purchase price.
P.S. I have now been listening to these for one full year, typically while I am driving to/from work or while hiking. The recordings are marvelous. Thanks to the artists and to Brilliant Classics for making this incredible collection available."