Having all of these works collected together is a real treasure. It is one of the most beautiful collections I've heard. 5 cd's of all of Bach's chamber music, exquisitely performed by the outstanding soloists of Musica Antiqua Koln. Reinhard Goebel's performance of the violin works is simply perfect. As I've said before, Bach's sonatas for violin and harpsichord have been in the shadows for too long, they deserve to be heard and this performance proves it. They are a delightful partnership between violin and harpsichord. The tempos are fairly brisk but the performance is so clearly articulated that the result is energetic and very rewarding.
If you like your Baroque music loud and luscious, then this is the disc for you. When you play it first, be aware that the two introductory pieces are not as loud as the later ones, so set your volume low to start off with!
McCreesh, Goebel and their crew have recreated the full pomp and atmosphere of the time (as far as we can tell). The recording is well-defined and, perhaps surprisingly, for a work of this scale, it does not deteriorate into a miasmic wash of sound. The directionality is very good, even on "ordinary" two-channel stereo.
"…As it stands, this is an issue that can be warmly recommended musically and technically without reservation—except perhaps to those who hanker after rich Romantic tone and find the characteristic sound of baroque violins wiry. Even they, however, could not fail to be stirred by the enormous vitality of these performances: the word 'routine' simply doesn't seem to exist in the vocabulary of this splendid team of virtuosi. Its Vivaldi, which brings home the point that the Folies d'Espagne was (as its name implies) originally a frenzied dance, is in itself worth getting the disc for; 'the' Pachelbel canon played in the proper style might wean slush-wallowers away from the soupiness in which it is usually drenched; but the Handel trio sonata (incorporating themes from various stage works) is also a delight; and the glorious sense of controlled freedom which permeates the Bach, meticulously phrased and stylishly ornamented, uplifts the spirit." ~Grammophone
The Missa Salisburgensis for 53 parts in eight separate choirs, often called "the Mahler 8th of the baroque," is by far the most grandiose work composed before the 18th century. Written (by an unnamed composer generally presumed to be Biber) for the 1,100th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Salzburg, it has extravagant scoring reflecting that city's enormous self-regard. This Mass is rarely performed or recorded, and probably not just because of logistical and financial constraints–the work can often seem tedious and overblown. The large number of parts and the reverberant acoustic of Salzburg Cathedral allowed for very little harmonic variety (virtually the entire Mass is in C major) or virtuoso fireworks; the music can make its effects only through variety of instrumental color and sheer massive sound. It is very much to the credit of Paul McCreesh, Reinhard Goebel, and their musicians that the Missa Salisburgensis sounds so engaging here: the grandeur is leavened with plenty of rhythmic snap, and some lighter moments sound tender and almost delicate. Unusually for McCreesh, there are no chants, prayers, or other trappings of a liturgical reconstruction; there are, however, three sumptuous instrumental sonatas and a motet included with the Mass. This may not be the most profound music of the 17th century, but it is surely among the most jubilant.
The late Nathan Milstein’s 1975 stereo remake (DG mid-price) was his own preferred version of these pillars of the violin repertoire with which he had been so associated since his youth in Odessa. But his (broadly faster) mid-Fifties New York account, now remastered and restored by EMI, was a famous yardstick of its time – a grandly phrased, aristocratically structured, Romantically resonant statement to treasure beside Menuhin and Heifetz. These are epic virtuoso performances justifying Milstein’s view that with this music the performer could ‘bask in the most glamorous light’. Stylistically, purists will object to their expressive liberty and gesture. But few will be able to resist their artistry or intensity of delivery.