Search - Olaf Bär, Andreas Schmidt, Johann Sebastian Bach :: Bach: Sacred Vocal Works [Box Set]

Bach: Sacred Vocal Works [Box Set]
Olaf Bär, Andreas Schmidt, Johann Sebastian Bach
Bach: Sacred Vocal Works [Box Set]
Genre: Classical


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Bargain price for the best of the best!
R. Lane | Tracy, CA USA | 11/17/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Below are the asin numbers for all four of the works in this box:

St. Mathew Passion - B0000057DG (1989)

St. John Passion - B0000057CW (1990)

Christmas Oratorio - B0000057D5 (1990)

Mass in b minor - B0000057CN (1990)

The numerous reviews already posted for each work say it all.

Many period instrument productions lack the interpretive element more commonly found in traditional performances. Not so with Mr. Gardiner. You don't just hear authentic music, you feel the passion and the poetry in it like never before.

I find no weaknesses to speak of in any of these recordings. The soloists are top notch, the choirs are well balanced, the orchestral playing is brilliant, the music breathes with spiritual and poetic inspiration, and the recorded sound is both detailed and atmospheric.

And you get it all in one convenient box at a price that is unbelievable.

My only quibble would be the documentation. You get decent essays on the music, but the text being sung is not included. But, these works are so mainstream that you can easily find free texts on the internet, and likely with better English translations than is commonly found in booklets that accompany CDs. I would recommend doing that even if the booklet did contain the texts.

A Formidable Bargain
Johannes Climacus | Beverly, Massachusetts | 11/19/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Gardiner's recordings of Bach's "sacred masterworks" were considered near-definitive when they were initially released during the 1980's. Since then numerous other "period performance practice" versions of these works have appeared, yet despite competition from such early-music luminaries as Suzuki and Herreweghe (to name only two), Gardiner's have retained their benchmark status.

The earliest performance in this compilation is the *Mass in b Minor* (dating from 1982). This remains an extraordinary account of a much-recorded piece. Gardiner manages to integrate drama, exultation and contemplation in just proportion (something surprisingly few conductors achieve in this work). His tempi are often brisk, but never breathless, and his choir sings with admirably clear diction and astonishing agility. The only qualification concerns the soloists who, though good, are surpassed by those on many rival recordings; the problem is that their rather wan timbres don't fit well with Gardiner's bold, vivid conception of the work.

Next came the *St John Passion*, and it set new standards for period performance practice. Here the soloists declaim the text more expressively than in the Mass; Rolfe-Johnson, in particular, proves an oustanding Evangelist. The contribution of the choir is, once again, a great asset, and Gardiner leads an interpretation notable for its dramatic intensity. Even those who usually prefer a more traditional approach will find that Gardiner doesn't stint on excitement or inwardness.

Gardiner's *Christmas Oratorio* marks an even higher order of achievement. If your benchmark in this work is Karl Richter's 1965 recording, you will find Gardiner even more thrilling: he lifts Bach's dance-rhythms with a heady exuberance that makes Richter (whose rendition has always been the most festive among modern-instrument versions) seem square and stolid. Compare, for instance, Richter and Gardiner in "Ehre sei Gott" (the angelic chorus in Part II) and you will see what I mean. Gardiner's soloists (Rolfe-Johnson/Bär/von Otter/Argenta) stand up remarkably well, too, in comparison with Richter's admittedly stellar team (Wunderlich/Ludwig/Crass/Janowitz). Since the *Weihnachtsoratorium* is close to the top of my short list of favorite Bach, I have heard nearly every recording (modern and period performance practice), and I can confindently say that none comes close to conveying Gardiner's sense of exultation.

The *St Matthew* was last to be recorded, in 1989. By then Gardiner had mellowed somewhat in his approach; rhythms are sprung less insistently, tempi are a wee bit more relaxed, and he favors some legato phrasing (without obscuring the all-important motivic cells) that might have seemed out of style earlier in the decade. This is the kinder, gentler Gardiner one recognizes from his *Bach Pilgrimage* cantata performances of 1999-2000 (also highly recommended). Admittedly, I rather miss the more abrasive style Gardiner favors in the *St John*, but this *St Matthew* is still a superb performance. Perhaps because the "Great Passion" is intrinsically a more expansive, less concentrated work, Gardiner emphasizes its prayerful and penitential aspects over its spectacular musico-dramatic effects. The effect is less bracing than we might have expected from him, but no less enjoyable in the long run (even if it takes a while longer to warm up to this peformance than to the others in this set).

The recordings are beautifully balanced, intimate, yet conveying a welcome ecclesiastical ambience. Gardiner would remind us that these are essentially liturgical works, for all their dramatic, even epic, splendor, and it is gratifying to hear them as if placed favorably within a medium-sized church acoustic.

Universal missed an opportunity by not including Gardiner's fine *Magnificat* and Cantata BWV 51 (featuring Emma Kirkby, unique in all the world), which Phillips recorded around the same time as the B-Minor Mass. Since Universal owns the copyright on Phillips as well as DG/Archiv, there would have been no obstacle to their inclusion. More serious is the omission of texts and tranlations. But these are minor quibbles in light of such a formidable bargain. Urgently recommended to neophytes and veteran collectors alike."
Outstanding, BUT......
D. J. Krug | Kailua, HI | 05/02/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This has been superceded by the even more glorious and super-bargain-priced Sacred Masterpieces / Cantatas. Snap up the other one (which is only $42 as of this writing) while you can and revel in some of the finest recordings of Bach on disc."