Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Johann Sebastian Bach, Jos Van Veldhoven, Netherlands Bach Society|
Genres: Special Interest, Classical
Listen to Samples
Joyous oratorio in super-audio surround sound:10 Stars
Dan Fee | Berkeley, CA USA | 11/09/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Here is a multichannel, super audio recording of JS Bach's Christmas Oratorio, which is actually a collection of six cantatas arranged around various aspects of the German Lutheran Bible's Christmas gospel narratives. The music is among the most joyous that the old master composer ever gave us, and the sequences are varied enough that you don't get fatigued listening, even if you sit through the entire series of six cantatas. The evangelist is a key figure in telling the story, naturally enough; but since he is narrating the birth of the baby Jesus, instead of the betrayal and crucifixion that is commemorated in Easter week services, he is free to be entirely upbeat throughout. The devotional or meditative sequences, whether via solo arias or via chorales, amplify the basic overall sense of heartfelt celebration. Many of the arias are renowned excerpts, such as the famous bass aria in Cantata One, Grosse Herr und Starker Konig. Its music is full of florid shakes and regal salute to the divine presence viewed through the pietistic Lutheran theology of Bach's day. Another famous aria is the so-called echo aria in Cantata Four, sung by the soprano, Flost mein Heiland. The alto solo voice is not neglected (with the famous aria, Bereite dich Zion and others), nor is the solo tenor slighted, despite the fact that the tenor is also evangelist. (He gets arias like Frohe Hirten, as well as his narratives.) Finally, there is the entirely lovely duet sung between the soprano and the bass in Cantata Three, Herr dein Mitleid. If you already love the Luke and Matthew Passions as set by JSB, you probably also already know and love this music. If the grief of the passions has put you off, then you still owe it to yourself to sample JSB in music full of happiness and tender respose. The performers are the Netherlands Bach Society, with outstanding soloists: Johanette Zomer (soprano), Annette Markert (alto), Gerd Turk (tenor), and Peter Harvey (bass). Each soloist is experienced, vocally fresh-sounding, and has been active in period performance concerts across Europe. The instrumental band is presumably the ensemble that accompanies the Netherlands Bach Society chorus. Both as a group, and in smaller continuo support for narrative sections, the instrumentalist do themselves proud. The chorus is outstanding as well. Leader Jos von Veldhoven is able to keep it all integrated, no mean feat when so many different sequences require subtle musical differentiation to characterize their individuality, without losing sight of the whole that is the oratorio complete. Tempos are very apt, neither too fast, nor too slow. The chorales often have a moving, forward sort of feel, depending on when they occur in the individual flow of a particular cantata. (All this is miles away from the extremely slow devotional tempos that were typical of Bach performances in the 1950's, and thank goodness for that change.) This is contemporary baroque performance, with stylistic musical forms and patterns, believed to be appropriate to each of the basic types of human emotional being conveyed in each part of the Christmas story. The super audio surround sound is so good that you may momentarily forget you are listening to a recording, so vividly is the sense of a live performance in a real world space captured. This disc is a cd/sacd hybrid, so even if you haven't quite gotten around to super audio play yet, you can still get this set and look forward to a future when super audio is part of your home system. The two disc set is lavishly packaged in an elegant velveteen box that encloses the disc folio, plus a hefty book that offers texts and discussions in English, Dutch, German, and French. Small (but very nice) pictures are scattered among the pages of the book's text, taken presumably from the collection of the Museum of the Catharijneconvent in Utrecht. Given the unrealiability of the classical music industry managers these days, this is exactly the sort of gleaming gem that will probably disappear from the US catalogue too quickly. I'm told by various people on the inside of different labels that many of these distribution managers don't actually like classical music, and would prefer to see it disappear from their US databases all together, so that they could concentrate on multimillion-dollar pop best sellers. I infer some support for this rumor, simply from the fact that the recording of the JS Bach St. Matthew Passion by these same forces on the same label is now deleted from the US catalogue, though it was released only a year or two ago. Get this wonderful set now if you can. Really. Very Highly Recommended, think ten stars."
Like a good glass of Champagne
A. Craig | Grand Junction,CO | 11/04/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This SACD set from Channel Classics sparkles like a snowflake in the sunshine. It has helped put the SACD format on the map.
Jos Van Veldhoven and the Nethelands Bach Society and the Soloists deliver one very powerful performance of the set of cantatas that make up the Oratorio. The NBS has a long history of performing Bach's music with conviction and in this recording
they certainly deliver the goods. If you are in need of hearing something else besides the usual performances of Handel's Messiah and the usual Christmas carols, you might want to try
this recording of J.S. Bach's Christmas Oratorio. Like Messiah it helps remind one of the "reason for the season" A lot of credit must go to the folks at Channel Classics the recording and the Book (booklet) that the SACD's come with is a wonderful example of how to really release a recording. The book deserves some mention as it has a number of pictures from the Catharijneconvent Museum that depict the events described in the oratorio. and the case this all comes in is no simple paper or plastic thing, no it feels like a fine book should with a cloth cover. I understand they have done the same thing for the St. John Passion too. This recording could easily become a classic."