Conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt. A fantastic concert celebrating the coming of Christmas, recorded live at one of Austria's finest baroque monasteries. Soloists are Christine Schafer, Anna Korondi, Bernarda Fink, Ian Bostridge, Christopher Maltman. With the Concentus Musicus Vienna and the Arnold Schoenberg Choir.
During the final years of his life, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) created the monumental body of music that can be considered his “Testament”, comprising the Musical Offering, the Art of Fugue and the B minor Mass. This latter work is a perfect synthesis of all his skill and flair in the art of composition (and essentially in that of counterpoint), as well as his gift for invention and his extraordinary sense of form, structure and number.
If he were so minded, Jordi Savall might hand copies of this CD out to new acquaintances as the musical equivalent of a calling-card. True, he appears here only in the guise of soloist, whereas a more complete portrait would need to include samples of his work as director and conductor; but as an illustration of the range of the viola da gamba, this generously filled disc is exemplary. And although the calling-card might not be handmade, it is the nearest thing to it, since Alia Vox is Savall’s own, newly established label.
With The All-Baroque Box we realize one of our fondest dreams: harnessing the deep catalogue of Archiv Produktion (supplemented on occasion by Decca L oiseau lyre recordings) to create a comprehensive collection of great music from Monteverdi to Bach. The music ranges from huge Baroque (Missa Salisburgensis, Venetian polychoral, Charpentier Te Deum) to intimate Baroque (the Goldberg Variations, Bach cello suites, solo cantatas) overwhelming in its impact and emotional content.
In the Baroque period, there really was no such thing as an "orchestra" as we understand the term today. There were large collections of singers and players brought together for special occasions, but aside from those, an "orchestral" work was anything that required more than five or six players. Bach's harpsichord concertos, for example, can be performed by a couple of dozen string players plus the soloist, or with an accompaniment of one person per part, which is more or less what we get here. These small forces permit an unprecedented transparency of sound and sharpness of attack, even if some weight and body of tone necessarily get sacrificed. It's a perfectly legitimate way to play the music, however, and you won't find it better done than here.
The English Concert is a baroque orchestra playing on period instruments based in London. Founded in 1972 and directed from the harpsichord by Trevor Pinnock for 30 years, it is now directed by harpsichordist Harry Bicket. The orchestra has been led by Nadja Zwiener since September 2007. The English Concert was founded by Trevor Pinnock and others in November 1972. The date of foundation is often given as 1973, probably because they started with seven people and only later progressed onto the orchestral repertoire as their number increased. They were one of the first orchestras dedicated to performing baroque and early classical music on period instruments, their repertoire from then to now ranging approximately from Monteverdi to Mozart…
This is a really great five-CD set. You get all of Bach's concertos except the Brandenburgs - which is a shame because Pinnock's Brandenburgs are terrific. Nonetheless, this remains an absolutely cracking collection of some of Bach's most enjoyable music in excellent performances. In the Harpsichord Concertos Pinnock is himself the soloist and shows why he is such a very well-liked and highly regarded musician. The music springs to life under his fingers (and under his direction) and many of these performances set new and enduring standards when first released in the early 1980s. They have informed much subsequent Bach playing and have worn extremely well themselves, sounding as fresh and involving as they did nearly 30 years ago. He is joined by other fine harpsichordists in the concerti for two, three and four harpsichords, (Kenneth Gilbert, Nicholas Kraemer and Lars Ulrich Mortensen) and the Concerto for Four Harpsichords in particular is an absolute joy.
JS Bach and Vivaldi s' Magnificat's: desert island repertoire to illustrate the splendour of the orchestra Le Concert des Nations and choir of La Capella Reial de Catalunya. Jordi Savall offers a vivid and striking performance of these two masterpieces, recorded live at the Royal Chapel in Versailles in 2013. Each of them is introduced by a concerto by the same composer in the same tonality. The superlative performance of Pierre Hantaï in the Concerto BWV1052 is another jewel to the crown of this album. The bonus DVD features both Magnificats and Bach s Concerto.
There’s very little to say about this recording save throwing yet more encomiums Jordi Savall’s way: as with his other Bach recordings, this is a success. The warmly dark, coppery sound for which these forces are renowned is here in its full glory; Savall’s pacing is neither frenzied nor laborious; the audio clarity is stunning. Because Savall is such a renowned gamba player who has recruited great fellow string players to his projects (note one Fabio Biondi on violin), you might overlook stellar playing elsewhere in the ensemble. But there’s no way to ignore the wind section in the opening movement in the first suite: the exquisite phrasing and pitch-perfect tones demand to be heard (and heard repeatedly, at that), and the masterful playing becomes even more delightfully apparent in the extended oboe and bassoon solo in the same suite’s Bourée.