Philippe Herreweghe & Collegium Vocale Gent
Christmas Cantatas from Leipzig
New Herreweghe Cantatas & Magnificat
Riccardo Nughes wrote (September 17, 2003):
I've just received this from Collegium Vocale
Johann Sebastian Bach
Christmas Cantatas from Leipzig
Collegium Vocale Gent
2CD HMC 901781.82
Alex Riedlmayer wrote (September 17, 2003):
[To Ricardo Nughes] No word on the soloists. When will this be released?
Riccardo Nughes wrote (September 17, 2003):
[To Alex Riedlmayer] All details here : http://www.amazon.fr/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0000AZKK6/
Herreweghe and Netherlands Bach society mini CD reviews
Peter Bright wrote (October 3, 2003):
You might be interested in this very short review of recent Herreweghe (Christmas cantatas) and van Veldhoven (Christmas Oratorio) CDs. Actually to call it a review is pushing it, but, in any case, comments are positive, but with reservations about an apparent lack of 'drive'...
Bach: Christmas Cantatas from Leipzig; Magnificat, Collegium Vocale Gent
(Harmonia Mundi, two CDs). Also reviewed, Bach: Christmas Oratorio, Netherlands Bach Society
Friday October 3, 2003
The Guardian <http://www.guardian.co.uk>
Bach wrote just three large-scale choral works that he called oratorios, all in the space of a couple of years in the mid 1730s. Each was identified with a different season of the church year - Christmas, Easter and Ascension. Of those works, the Christmas Oratorio is by a long way the best known, though it is a very different kind of work from the form of the biblical oratorio that Handel composed so prolifically.
For the Christmas Oratorio is not one unified work, but six cantatas, each of which is based on a biblical scene and all linked together by their nativity theme, which were designed, as at the premiere in Leipzig betweeen Christmas Day 1734 and Epiphany 1735, to be performed as part of the liturgy over the festive season.
There is no shortage of first-rate recordings of the Christmas Oratorio, but the latest one, played and sung with great urgency and stylishness by the voices and period instruments of the Netherlands Bach Society, under Jos van Veldhoven, is certainly presented differently from any other. The velvet slipcase might be a tacky mistake, but the hardback book that accompanies the discs is beautifully produced and contains a whole series of Nativity images from the Museum of the Catharine Convent in Utrecht. The idea is to create a real audiovisual experience, perusing the paintings while you listen - though my guess is that most listeners will admire the book once and after that simply play the discs.
Bach produced a whole stream of works for the Christmas feast days during his Leipzig years, but Philippe Herreweghe's set focuses on the four cantatas from 1723 and 1724 that he composed for his first two Christmasses there - "Christen, ätzet diesen Tag", "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ", "Christum wir sollen loben schon" and "Ich freue mich in dir". The Christmas Day service in 1723 was also the source of his Magnificat, but when that was first heard it was a rather different work from what is so familiar today - it was in the key of E flat rather than D major, slightly differently scored and contained several movements that were omitted from the final version. Herreweghe's accounts are typically thoughtful, not at all theatrical or dramatically driven, and that slightly laid-back approach takes the edge off the Magnificat too, though the quality of the solo and choral singing, and the careful shaping of the orchestral lines are all exemplary.
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (October 4, 2003):
[To Peter Bright] Which version of the Magnificat was included, BWV 243 or BWV 243a? If the latter, well and good; if the former, then they really need to re-examine and relable the recording. The later version (BWV 243) from all I have read and heard was performed after the "Tempus Clausum" imposed for the mourning period of Duke-Elector-King August II of Sachsen. The Magnificat itself (in Evangelical liturgy) usually is a Lenten work, since the feast of the Visitation usually falls in March. The reason that Bach in 1723 performed the earlier version of the Magnificat (BWV 243a) during the Christmas observances that year was because of the 4 textual and musical insertions in it that dealt with Christmas (the setting of the
Choral "Vom Himmel hoch da komm' ich her", the Chorus "Freut euch und jubiliert", the Engelchor aus das Lukasevangelium "Gloria in excelsis Deo", and the Arie "Virga Jesse fioruit").
Veldhoven's XO and Herreweghe's new Magnificat
Pierce Drw wrote (November 6, 2003):
Has anyone picked up the new recording of the Christmas Oratorio by Veldhoven (on Channel Classics, with deluxe packaging)? If so, how does it compare with other notable recordings, such as Suzuki's?
Similarly, has anyone on the list heard the new Magnificat / Leipzig Christmas Cantatas set by Herreweghe?
John Pike wrote (November 6, 2003):
[To Pierce Drew] I have not heard either but they both get 5* in the BBC Music Magazine this month for both performance and recording (the best).
Bradley Lehman wrotew (November 6, 2003):
Pierce Drew wrote: Similarly, has anyone on the list heard the new Magnificat / Leipzig Christmas Cantatas set by Herreweghe? >
It's not scheduled for US release until sometime next week. I look forward to hearing it; thanks for mentioning it! (Such news about new Bach releases is a GOOD reason to be subscribed to this group!)
Has anyone here heard the Hengelbrock recording of the E-flat Magnificat, coupled with some pieces by Lotti? I haven't been able to find it yet in US distribution; any leads are appreciated.
Charles Francis wrote (November 6, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] There are samples at: http://www.amazon.de/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00005JIHY/
If you want to order, I imagine Mr. Braatz can help out with the German.
S.W. Anadgyan wrote (December 1, 2003):
The first batch of the double set of CDs of Bach's Christmas Cantatas in Leipzig and Magnificat 243a came and went like hot cakes. So waiting for the next order to come in.
I keep thinking that Herreweghe can do no wrong, which is improper. Now if no one has something to say about his most recent release, may I read about the one that least pleased you ?
The one with cantatas BWV 2, BWV 20 and BWV 176 I have found myself very slowly warming up to.
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (December , 2003):
[To S.W. Anandgyan] I honestly have only heard him through the samples that (occasionally) Amazon.com and/or other CD e-vendors provide. I am veryinterested in hearing his interpretation of BWV 243a and also the 1725 verison of the Johannespassion.
I am also interested in Hermann Max's recordings. I have heard him interpretations. I had a recording (and have the copy i taped of it) of Telemann's Passionsoratorium "Betrachte der neunte Sutnde der Todestage Jesu" and liked it. Has anyone heard his interpretation of the 1749 version of the Johannespassion? If so, what do you think of it (especially compared with the Suzuki recording everyone seems to be bombarded with)? It is a good purchase?
Also, slightly off-topic here, does anyone know where I could find Max's recording of the Passionsoratorium "Wer ist der, so von Edom koemmt", and the works that make up the oratorio (with the movement number and the corresponding movement numbers they have in the oratorio)?
Marten Breuer wrote (December 2, 2003):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote: < I honestly have only heard him through the samples that (occasionally) Amazon.com and/or other CD e-vendors provide. I am veryinterested in hearing his interpretation of BWV 243a and also the 1725 verison of the Johannespassion. >
I seem to be the only one on the list who already has the Herreweghe BWV 243a recording: very good indeed! What I find particularly interesting are the differences between BWV 243 and BWV 243a; in earlier recordings, they used to take BWV 243 and insert the Christmas chorales from BWV 243a. Herreweghe, by contrast, has recorded the original 243a which differs both in text and melody from 243.
Uri Golomb wrote (December 2, 2003):
Anadygan wrote: < The first batch of the double set of CDs of Bach's Christmas Cantatas in Leipzig and Magnificat 243a came and went like hot cakes. So waiting for the next order to come in.
I keep thinking that Herreweghe can do no wrong, which is improper. Now if no one has something to say about his most recent release, may I read about the one that least pleased you ? >
Although I admire Herreweghe in Bach, I woulnd't go so far as to say that he's infallible... However, I'm aware that my own least favourite Herreweghe recording (his Trauer-Ode, BWV 198) is also very highly regarded. To my ears, I must admit several parts of Herreweghe's Trauer-Ode -- not least the opening movement -- simply sound too cheerful and dance-like, a fault shared by several other recordings of that work. (My favourite Trauer-Ode is Parrott's OVPP recording, though I have yet to hear the 1960s version conducted by Jürgen Jürgens).
As for his latest set: It consists of two CDs (CD 1: Cantatas BWV 91, BWV 121 and BWV 133; CD 2: Cantata BWV 63, Magnificat BWV 243a). These two were recorded a year apart -- I am guessing they were initially planned for separate release -- and are not of the same quality. There is a problem with the choral singing in the first CD: it is too diffuse and lacking of focus, and when the texture becomes more polyphonic inner lines are lost. Similar problems affect the orchestra, especially the instrumental bass, which is too reverberent -- you can definitely hear it's there, but it's difficult to discern the specific line it is playing; in some cases (where the bass has its own melodic contribution), that's a real pity. On the other hand, the solo singing and obbligato instrumental playing are often very good and responsive (including the interaction between Dorothee Blotzky-Mields and Ingebord Danz in their BWV 91 duet. I also liked Blotzky-Mields' delicate, slightly fragile, and very moving singing of her aria in BWV 133 aria.
CD 2 is much better, on the whole: the choral singing is sharper and better-focused, and even has a bit of "bite" in more dramatic passages. Clarity is far superior, in both orchestra and choir. And the solo singing is still very good. So I would strongly recommend the set on the strength of that second CD, though there's much to enjoy on the first CD as well.
S.W. Anandgyan wrote (December 2, 2003):
Uri Golomb wrote <Snip> < So I would strongly recommend the set on the strength of that second CD, though there's much to enjoy on the first CD as well. >
Thank you ever so much Uri for having offered me an example of what writing a listening experience with enough vocabulary can be like. Granted you're a professional and I'm an amateur, there is no doubt in my mind that we share at least one passion that is the same. It goes beyond showing respect to my innocent ways, it is rejoicing in what brings us here to begin with; Bach's music.
Philippe Herreweghe: Short Biography | La Chapelle Royale | Collegium Vocale
Recordings: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | General Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Individual Recordings: Cantatas BWV 29, 119 & 120 | Christmas Cantatas from Leipzig - Herreweghe | Weinen Klagen.. Cantata BWV 12, 38 & 75 | BWV 232 - Herreweghe | BWV 244 - Herreweghe | BWV 245 - Herreweghe
Table of recordings by BWV Number