This box set gathers together Karl Richter's stereo recordings of Bach's choral works that were recorded between 1959-1969. Missing is his final, digital St Matt, the 1961 Mass in B Minor (the 1969 "from Japan" recording is included) and an earlier mono Christmas Oratorio (available on Teldec CDs).
Another entry in Harmonia Mundi's ongoing Bach Edition, this recording from 1993 exemplifies both the consistently high standard of performance we've come to expect from Philippe Herreweghe and his Collegium Vocale and the astonishing musical variety and emotional/spiritual depth of Bach's vocal works. As usual in this series, the program reflects a theme, in this case the feast of Ascension, for which Bach wrote what proved to be his final oratorio (improperly catalogued as a cantata in the original edition of Bach's works) and at least three cantatas. The oratorio contains both original music and, as has recently been shown, several movements taken from cantatas no longer extant. It's a compelling and inexplicably underperformed work, far shorter than Bach's other oratorios, complete with some terrific orchestral music, two wonderful festive choruses, a tenor Evangelist narrator, a charming little duet for tenor and bass, and arias for soprano and alto.
On the third album of his '90s comeback, Big John Patton chooses to create a relaxed vibe, smoothly grooving through a surprising choice of material. Most of the record consists of challenging songs like Coltrane's "Syeeda's Song Flute" and Grachan Moncur III's "Sonny's Back," which gives Patton – as well as his supporting band, featuring guitarist Ed Cherry and tenor saxophonist Dave Hubbard – the chance to create intricate yet accessible music. This is music that can be heard as simply a good groove yet it rewards careful listening. This One's for J.A. again confirms that Patton has made one of the rare comebacks in jazz, one that does justice to his earlier work.
Among traditional modern-instrument versions of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, Wolfgang Gönnenwein’s 1968 recording has a lot to offer. Not least is the excellent choral singing from top to bottom. The texts are always clear, and the pacing for the chorales is governed by the story’s dramatic unfolding. You can’t help but be hooked by Evangelist Theo Altmeyer’s warm tone and vivid portrayal, complemented by Franz Crass’ sonorous, touching Jesus. What a joy it is to hear Teresa Zylis-Gara, Julia Hamari, and Hermann Prey at the peak of their respective powers. Tenor Nicolai Gedda is heard to better advantage with Gönnenwein than in Otto Klemperer’s recording, where he struggled with that conductor’s craggy tempos. The orchestra plays beautifully, and the engineering does full justice to Bach’s antiphonal interplay. All the recitatives are accompanied by rather dutiful chordal backing from the organ and cello (Bach adds a “halo” of strings, of course, whenever Jesus opens his mouth). A harpsichordist with a bent for improvisation would have spruced up the texture. Lovers of great Bach singing, however, will treasure this release.(Jed Distler)