Even as period-instrument bands dominate baroque music performance today, many small chamber orchestras demonstrate that it is possible to give stylish, restrained, crisply articulated performances of baroque music on modern instruments. When I compare this rendition of the Bach Magnificat to a period-instrument, one-singer-to-a-part version with Andrew Parrot on Virgin, the latter comes off sounding like a parody of authentic performance practice (rushed tempos, pallid vibrato-less tone, ugly lunging swells on suspensions) while this Naxos version sounds like a model of good taste and fine music making - from orchestra and vocal soloists alike.
In addition to the 75 J.S.Bach's Cantatas by Munchener Bach-Chor & Munchener Bach-Orchester conducted by Karl Richter.
The BWV 127 cantata was not included in the "75 Cantatas" set.
In many ways this is a special recording. It features first-desks from the Chicago Sym. playing two of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, and so far beyond the average Baroque ensemble are they that one yearns for the other four. Just to hear the amazing trumpet solos in Concerto no. 2 by the legendary Adolph Herseth repays the cost of the CD. But we also get James Levine doing double duty at the harpsichord in Concerto no. 5. One deficit from the rise of period performance is that non-specialists have been driven out. The days when an all-around musician like Levine or Leonard Bernstein performed Bach and Handel are more or less over, and their replacements, to be tactful, are not on such an exalted level of talent…. By Santa Fe Listener
Although conductors invariably include the six great motets of Bach (BWV225-230) in recordings of these works, they seldom if ever seem to agree which if any other of Bach's motets to perform with them. John Eliot Gardiner very sensibly goes for the lot, adding Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren (BWV231) and the little-known Der Gerechte kommt um which does not even have the benefit of a Schmieder number. As well as these, Gardiner also includes two short pieces which belong, at least nominally, to the cantata category, BWV50 and BWV118. In the case of the latter there is much justification for doing so for it's a single movement choral piece in motet style written for a funeral in about 1736 and revised for a performance around 1740. Here we have what sounds to me like a compromise; in other words the horns, cornetto and sackbuts of the first version (possibly intended for an open air occasion), with the strings and woodwind of the second. This may be explained in the texts, none of which has been included with my review copy…
This disc is a far cry from the typical fare we’ve come to expect on the shelves around the Christmas season. The inclusion of Bach’s sublime Cantata 63 and Mendelssohn’s Vom Himmel hoch give the disc a year round appeal. Vaughan Williams’ joyful The First Nowell is a veritable feast of well loved carols and the London Philharmonic Choir together with soloists Lisa Milne and Christopher Maltman exude Christmas cheer.
This is the fourth volume of ATMA's ongoing Bach Cantata cycle and it is a big improvement over Bach: Cantatas BWV 1, 82, 147 - Montréal Baroque because Eric Milnes has moderated his previous excesses of interpretative choices. Now pauses fit in the overall conception of phrases and the longer line is immediately identifiable without recourse to a score…