Pieter Jan Leusink & Holland Boys Choir & Netherlands Bach Collegium
Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works
General Discussions - Part 3
Continue from Part 2
Leusink cantatas list
Michael Grober wrote (September 14, 2001):
Having been frustrated with the difficulty of finding out which cantata is in which box set of the Brilliant Classics Bach Edition, I have recently compiled a list of all the Leusink cantata recordings into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. It can be sorted either by box set number or by cantata number. It would make a nice addition to the cantatas website, I think, but I have no knowledge of HTML and wouldn't even know if an Excel spreadsheet can be converted to HTML easily. Probably not. But I just thought I would let you know. If anyone would like me to email the spreadsheet to you as an attachment, just let me know.
Kirk McElhearn wrote (September 14, 2001):
[To Michael Grover] I would. Maybe Aryeh would like to put an HTML version of it in the bach-cantatas.com site...
Pieter Pannevis wrote (September 14, 2001):
Especially those who are struck by the devastating events in the USA.
On the Leusink recordings and the new recording of the MP I asked the group if there was interest in a signed copy of this set. Several answered off-list, but only one address was kept and the box was send. Will those who emailed me off-list do this again so I can fulfil my promises.
Aryeh Oron wrote (September 14, 2001):
[To Michael Grover] A good idea, but there are already such lists in the Bach Cantatas Website:
Table of Cantata Recordings by Major Conductors according to BWV Number:
Bach Cantata Recordings by Leusink (by Box number):
If you want something to be added to the Bach Cantatas Website not through the BCML, you send it to me. The instructions how to send me material appear in the following page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/How.htm
Dyfan Lewis wrote (September 15, 2001):
[To Michael Grover] What a great idea!
Please send me a copy.
Dyfan Lewis wrote (September 15, 2001):
[To Aryeh Oron] Yes Aryeh but that list doesn't tell you in which box to find Cantata
number xxx. Works of course unprinted out by just searching for cantata xxx.
Pieter Pannevis wrote (September 15, 2001):
To end a problem! I'll scan the booklet, which was provided by the whole set, and copy it down to a txt and/or Word file. Please give me some days, as there are other things to do. I'll write you as soon as it's done and available
Aryeh Oron wrote (September 15, 2001):
[To Dyfan Lewis] Look at the table in the page:
It is sorted by BWV Number.
The 1st column is the BWV Number.
The 10th column (Leusink) is comprised of 2 numbers - XX/YY = the left number (XX) in the Volume number. The right number (YY) is the CD number in that Volume (this explanation appears as remark No.3 at the bottom of the page).
The other columns will help you to find the relevant volume of a cantata in other major conductors' cantata cycles: Rilling, Richter, H&L, Koopman, Suzuki, Berlin Classics (Ramin, K. Thomas, Mauersberger, Guttler, Schreier).
I prepared this table couple of months ago as a service for the the members of BCML, following similar question. If it is not clear enough, I am ready to improve it.
Kirk McElhearn wrote (September 15, 2001):
< Pieter Pannevis wrote: I'll scan the booklet, which was provided by the whole set, and copy it down to a txt and/or Word file. >
I didn't get a booklet with my complete set...
Pieter Pannevis wrote (September 15, 2001):
[To Kirk McElhearn] Sorry to hear your provider did not stored it and send it. Be my guest: I already am copying and inserting it into word The booklet is divide in three parts:
1. contents of all the volumes
2. BWV numbers sorted on ascending number
3. BMW numbers sorted on alphabet ( title or opening text)
To this there are subdivisions for say organ/flute etc.
Kirk McElhearn wrote (September 15, 2001):
[To Pieter Pannevis] Great, I'm looking forward to it.
Andrew Oliver wrote (September 15, 2001):
I simply made a list from 1 - 200 and looked at all the cantata boxes, noting the box number and CD number against each cantata number. It took a little time, but it isn't difficult.
Roy Reed wrote (September 15, 2001):
[To Michael Grover] Good idea. I made one for myself, but only after Jane Newble explained the whole confusing system to me.
Leo Ditvoorst wrote (September 15, 2001):
[To Andrew Oliver] See also:
Bob McDonald wrote (September 16, 2001):
[To Michael Grover] Yes. I'd be interested.
Dyfan Lewis wrote (September 17, 2001):
[To Aryeh Oron] This is amazing! Even the 1st edition of Rilling which has always been a problem as regards navigation!
Complete Bach set on Brilliant Classics
Kirk McElhearn wrote (October 12, 2001):
My goal is not to make anyone jealous, but I just received the complete Brilliant Classics set for review. It has been re-released in a new package; all the CDs are in slipcases, rather than jewelboxes, and the entire package takes up much less space. It comes with a book over 500 pages long containing notes and texts to the vocal works.
I will be writing an extensive review/essay of this set over the coming weeks. My goal is not to review each recording, but to give a global idea of the set.
But my first impressions are positive, for several reasons.
I think we discussed, last year, the pros and cons of buying a complete set as opposed to individual recordings. While there are always some duds in any complete set (as is the case with the Teldec and Haenssler sets as well), this set is very, very inexpensive (I don't know exactly how much, but, given the prices in jewel boxes, it must be pretty cheap) and even if some of the recordings are duds, it is still a great buy. We have discussed the cantatas at length; they are not all excellent, but many, even most, are fine. But, on top of that, as I look through the performers, I see there are many excellent performers in this set, both in the vocal music (the passions are by The Sixteen; I am familiar with their St Matthew, which is quite good) and instrumental.
In short, given the low cost of this set, and the number of good to fine recordings, I can only say that it truly seems a worthwhile investment, especially for those who would like to have at least one recording of each work. At least it will give you something to measure other recordings against; for those interested in "collecting" and owning several recordings, the weaker ones here will be good benchmarks; the better ones will prove to be enough for many of us.
Again, if only for the cantatas, this is worth the money. But, the possibility of having 160 CDs of Bach at a very low price is quite unique.
Pablo Fagoaga wrote (October 13, 2001):
[To Kirk McElhearn] Is there any Web site in which this set can be bought??
Harry J. Steiman wrote (October 13, 2001):
< Kirk McElhearn wrote: <snip>
My goal is not to make anyone jealous, but I just received the complete Brilliant Classics set for review. >
That being said, you know that you failed! ;D Congrats!
<snip> <I think we discussed, last year, the pros and cons of buying a complete set
as opposed to individual recordings.... We have discussed the cantatas at length; they are not all excellent, but many, even most, are fine. But, on top of that, as I look through the performers, I see there are many excellent performers in this set, both in the vocal music (the passions are by The Sixteen; I am familiar with their St Matthew, which is quite good) and instrumental.
In short, given the low cost of this set, and the number of good to fine recordings, I can only say that it truly seems a worthwhile investment, especially for those who would like to have at least one recording of each work. >
I would be very sad if I did not have the Brilliant Classics CDs and heartily recommend them with the caveats that they're not perfect...but the composer certainly is!
Be interested to hear your comments on this new packaging, etc.
Kirk McElhearn wrote (October 13, 2001):
[To Pablo Fagoaga] You mean the big 160 CD set?
I'll find out. I know it will soon be sold in the UK. I'll get back to you.
Leusink's singers not loud enough for their recitatives?!
Bradley Lehman wrote (April 11, 2003)
Thomas Braatz wrote:
Neil stated: >>The cause (apart from tempi that are too fast) is the employment of the same puny chamber organ stop(s) used in the recitatives.<<
and Brad replied:
>>These organs designed for continuo work are not "puny" or "too quiet"! Methinks you should go hear and play them in person, rather than going only by what you hear in recordings....<<
I have to agree with Brad here. You won't need to hear them in person because in the Leusink series, the use of a 'chest/chamber organ' in the recitatives frequently is too loud (out of balance with the vocalist.) This may be due to various reasons: the pipes of a church organ would be at a greater distance from the mike(s) than a chest/chamber organ which usually stands close to the singer or conductor (at least as it appears on the photos of this ensemble;) also, there is the common problem in many HIP recordings with hemidemivocalists having difficulty projecting their voices at their usual sotto voce volume level over a single 8' Gedackt. Amazing! >
Tom, to back up this "Amazing!" (as you say) assertion, could you give us a list of, say, ten specific recitatives in the Leusink series where the singer is not loud enough for the recitative he's delivering? This should be a very easy thing to supply as a checklist, if indeed the organ "frequently is too loud". I'd like to hear what you're hearing, specific spots rather than these across-the-board judgments.
I have the Leusink boxes 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, and 10 (so far) and have been listening through them gradually over the past month or so; and I have not yet (even once) noticed any recitative where the singer wasn't loud enough to put it across. Obviously, these guys aren't Nicolai Gedda or Jon Vickers, but it seems to me they *are* loud enough for the assigned tasks.
So, specifics please!
And, what kind of a sound system are you listening on? I've listened to this week's cantata (BWV 72) on four different systems so far, and heard different things in the "virtual soundstage" each time: the playback system (and the miking) DO make a huge difference in a listener's perspective. That's why, as I said earlier, the only way to really know what the true balance is is to hear and perform this music in person, without any microphones....
Thomas Braatz wrote (April 12, 2003):
Brad stated: >>Tom, to back up this "Amazing!" (as you say) assertion, could you give us a list of, say, ten specific recitatives in the Leusink series where the singer is not loud enough for the recitative he's delivering? This should be a very easy thing to supply as a checklist, if indeed the organ "frequently is too loud". I'd like to
hear what you're hearing, specific spots rather than these across-the-board judgments.<<
Check out BWV 58 which I have already reported on. The other nine are probably in other reports that I have written and can be found on Aryeh's site. In any case I am surprised that you should even be interested in my opinions on this matter since you must obviously already know about my characterizations of the Leusink performances which are almost polar opposites to yours. Your desire for the 'ugly' and for 'forceful thrusting' might be better served by listening to the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt series rather than Leusink's.
Bradley Lehman wrote (April 12, 2003):
< Thomas Braatz wrote: Check out BWV 58 which I have already reported on. The other nine are probably in other reports that I have written and can be found on Aryeh's site. >
In other words, you'd rather not present a directly verifiable list of cases where we can listen to the evidence and decide for ourselves; you'd rather have us simply take your word for it, as you rail against a vocal style you just don't care for....
< In any case I am surprised that you should even be interested in my opinions on this matter since you must obviously already know about my characterizations of the Leusink performances which are almost polar opposites to yours. Your desire for the 'ugly' and for 'forceful thrusting' might be better served by listening to the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt series rather than Leusink's. >
As I made perfectly clear in my review (or thought I made clear, anyway), the overall gracefulness in Leusink's performance is far more important to me than the momentary lack of forcefulness or ugliness. And, if I hadn't said *anything* negative about Leusink's performance, some here would undoubtedly accuse me of being an uncritical listener, merely seduced by the "HIP" sounds! So, I sought out a _minor_ suggestion (as I said) of a way I imagine that performance of BWV 72 could be even better. And that's what I said.
Is Harnoncourt graceful? In BWV 72? In any Bach? :)
Bradley Lehman wrote (April 13, 2003)
<< Bradley Lehman wrote: As for "mezzavoce type," please give us some evidence that the word "mezzavoce" was/is considered as a voice _type_ (a singer's entire way of being), as opposed to simply an expressive technique available to anyone. >>
< Alex Riedlmayer wrote: Irrelevant is whether or not there was a "mezzavoce type" in Bach's time.Evidently it doesn't sound very expressive. >
Why take Tom's word for it, or mine, or anybody else's, over whether Leusink's singers are expressive or not...or musically pleasing or not? Plunk down your $9.95 for the five-CD set from http://www.berkshirerecordoutlet.com and listen to it for yourself, and then decide if you like it or not!
If you don't like it, fine; you're out less than the price of a decent meal...or maybe you'll like one of the other cantatas in the box enough to justify your small investment.
Myself, I would have bought the Leusink boxes as much as a year ago, but I was dissuaded by reading reviews from this discussion list (on the web site). Those reviews are quite negative, giving the impression that Leusink is third-rate (or worse) in all areas. Then, when I realized that many of those reviews are merely a thinly disguised bit of "HIP bashing" and prejudicial expectations, masquerading as listening experiments, I decided to buy a couple of the boxes to hear them for myself. It's worth it. I've had them for a month or two now, and really am enjoying them...no thanks to the people who almost kept me from buying them at all! The Leusink performances are (IMO) MUCH, MUCH better than the reviews in this group had led me to believe. I'm glad I decided to listen to the recordings myself.
Johan van Veen wrote (April 13, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] You are absolutely right of course: never base your judgement on that of others. Just listen yourself and give your own assessment. But you don't need to be a "HIP-basher" to dislike Leusink's recordings. I consider myself rather a "HIP-fundamentalist" and I don't like Leusink at all.
There is a review on my site, in case someone may be interested.
Leo Ditvoorst wrote (April 13, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] I agree with you. The terms that are used to review HIP performances are sometimes not fair. I own the Leusink set and the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt set. Both are not perfect, I know. But, in my not so humble opinion the "half voice" of Ruth Holton in the Leusink recording sometimes sounds like heaven. Maybe it would be better if one not like HIP performances in itself to refrain from reviewing them over and over (and the other way around of course). And yes, it is always better to listen yourself and make your own choices.
Alex Riedlmayer wrote (April 13, 2003):
< Bradley Lehman wrote: Then, when I realized that many of those reviews are merely a thinly disguised bit of "HIP bashing" and prejudicial expectations, masquerading as listening experiments, >
Wait a minute... are you talking about my posts?
Francis Browne wrote (April 13, 2003):
Brad Lehman wrote: "Myself, I would have bought the Leusink boxes as much as a year ago, but I was dissuaded by reading reviews from this discussion list (on the web site). Those reviews are quite negative, giving the impression that Leusink is third-rate (or worse) in all areas. Then, when I realized that many of those reviews are merely a thinly disguised bit of "HIP bashing" and prejudicial expectations, masquerading as listening experiments, I decided to buy a couple of the boxes to hear them for myself."
I am glad that Brad is enjoying the Leusink cycle and I would urge both him and others to buy all the boxes. I say this despite the suspicion that - for all I know - I may be considered one of the wicked, conspiratorial authors of negative reviews, for I have certainly posted expressions of dissatisfaction with some of Leusink's performances. But I would stand by what I said when I joined this list in February last year:
"I would feel ungrateful if I did not express my great gratitude and admiration for Pieter van Leusink and his singers and musicians. For all its inevitable shortcomings the cycle is a marvellous achievement and it must be the means of introducing so many thousands of people to the delights of the cantatas who would not otherwise have the opportunity. So much beauty and splendour can be conveyed by even a very imperfect performance of Bach's music and often Leusink and his performers achieve much more."
A year or more of listening intensively to cantatas - with the help of Aryeh's marvellous site - and the experience of translating some eighty of the cantatas ( a task I began because the Leusink cds are supplied without translations) have deepened my gratitude and admiration. But listening widely to other performances - either HIP or nonHIP - I often find that I gain more delight and insight into the works from other versions. The reasons for this are not hard to find, if you read Peter Blomoendaal's very interesting interview with Leusink. It is clear that he is a man of great ability and energy - who took on an impossible task. The recording schedule and lack of adequate rehearsals simply made it impossible for him to achieve the consistency and standards possible for other cycles. Nevertheless , what an achievement to have made all the cantatas available to so many people throughout the the world ! In Pound's words "But to have done instead of not doing/ this is not vanity".
I find now that I regard the Leusink performances of the cantatas with the affection and gratitude - and occasional exasperation - that one might have for a local choir and orchestra : delighted and appreciative that they are making Bach's music available but aware that some things can be done differently and better. When - as is often the case - Leusink's version is the only one available to me, I almost always feel that the performance is adequate to convey the greatness of the music.
Opinions are sometimes expressed trenchantly and some contributors obviously have a strong point of view about certain issues. But I do not believe there is an anti-Leusink or anti-HIP conspiracy. There is is surely a place for a plurality of views -and how dull if we all agreed and had to be unremittingly positive all the time!
(who spent a blissful hour walking to work listening repeatedly to Ruth Holton singing the marvellous soprano aria from BWV 72 - but still hopes Suzuki will record this cantata in the near future)
Hugo Saldias wrote (April 13, 2003):
[To Francis Browne] Same thing happened with Edith Mathis... She is the soprano that sings the arias in the DGG ARCHIV series conducted by Karl Richter. By a reason I still do not understand a lot of members went too hard on their reviews.My last desicion is my taste, and I love the way she sings the arias as well as Karl Richter version of these Cantatas. For that reason I try to ignore all those that seem to be against her.
Now in your case I suggest you never listen to any review too seriosly and avoid buying because it got a bad review.On the contrary I love to argue and I will buy any CD that has a negative review to see about it.\Please I apologize for this intrusion in your personal matters, but please do not hesitate to buy recordings by that important artist and conductor.
Leo Ditvoorst wrote (May 15, 2003):
Often in the reviews of the cantata the recordings by Leusink are sabled down. I think these recordings are worse treated then they deserve.
However I am not going to argue about that. Instead I have decided to open a webside were you can listen to the cantate of the week in the recording by Leusink. The URL is: http://www.piratez.dk/bach/
the links to the mp3's are at: http://www.piratez.dk/bach/mp3.html
The name of the site, piratez.dk might suggest the site is illegal. Be reassured, I have permission from Joan records to put these files on the web and permission from Walter F. Bischof to add the texts. Best way to listen is to download (right click) the files to your computer and play them. The mp3's are 128kb/sec, ripped from my own CD's.
I will add cantata following the list of the discussion. Aryeh will put links on the Bach Cantatas Website. The cantata for next week and the following are uploaded.
So listen, enjoy and judge by yourself.
Hugo Saldias wrote (May 15, 2003):
[To Leo Ditvoorst] This is great. Thanks a lot.This will help me compare between more versions.As you know I have an open mind and I am happy to be able to listen to more and more versions of Bach Cantatas:nices ones HIP and nice non HIP TOO> I do not discriminate...
And that is what this group is all about.
Thanks and regards
Arie Goud wrote (May 16, 2003):
[To Leo Ditvoorst, translated from Dutch by Leo Ditvoorst & Johan van Veen]
Specially mister Braatz is someone. I like his essays but not his criticisms. Go on with your initiative,
Hugo Saldias wrote (May 16, 2003):
[To Arie Goud] I am with you....
Pieter Pannevis wrote (May 16, 2003):
[To Leo Ditvoorst] Great work and a fine initiative
My compliments !
Leo Ditvoorst wrote (May 16, 2003):
Because of the lively discussion about BWV 119 I updated the Leusink site and put BWV 119, BWV 121, BWV 133 and BWV 34. As long as my Danish pirate keeps his server running I will update cantata to keep ahead of the discussions.
Leusink on E-bay
Joan M. Thomas wrote (June 5, 2003):
I have just seen, available on E-bay, what appear to be most of the volumes of the Leusink rendering of the cantatas. When, many years ago, i began to collect Bach's cantatas on LP, Harnoncourt and Rilling were the only games in town if one planned, in time, to acquire a more-or-less complete series. Thus, I have very few C.D.'s representing the more recent HIP recordings. Based on my reading of the comments which have been posted on the Bach-cantatas mailing list, I should like to obtain at least one of the Leusink volumes. Would anyone currently enjoying the Leusink series care to risk recommending a particular volume or two? Any suggestions would be gratefully appreciated. I apologize, in advance, for presenting Leusink fans with a difficult choice.
Bradley Lehman wrote (June 5, 2003):
[To Joan M. Thomas] Joan, you can get about half of the Leusink cantata sets directly from: http://www.berkshirerecordoutlet.com/ for $9.99 USD each, which is probably cheaper than you can do through eBay. (And, some of the eBay sellers have got them from Berkshire so they can turn around and resell them with at least 200% markup; nothing wrong with that quick buck, but why not just go straight to a source?)
I've picked up seven of those boxes so far, and on the whole am glad to have them, although I wouldn't want them to remain my only recordings of some of the works. It's a moderate approach to the music: lively and alert tempos/articulation, interpretively sometimes perceptive, sometimes shallow. Some of the choral singing could have benefited from more rehearsal, but it does (for better or worse) simulate Bach's own working conditions. The whole Leusink series was recorded in a year. See also Johan van Veen's (less favorable) review at: http://www.geocities.com/johan_van_veen/cd_reviews/BC_Bach_Cantatas.html
Also, one of the other members of the Bach Cantatas group has put up mp3 samples of some of the Leusink recordings to go with the discussions: http://bach.pfcorner.net/
I'd say, do what I did: pick up two or three of the boxes and listen to them, decide if you like Leusink's approach, and then act accordingly.
Joan M. Thomas wrote (June 6, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Thanks for the tip about Berkshire Records which I shall certainly investigate so soon as the workday permits. I want to sample the Leusink because I have just acquired two of the Suzuki volumes to add to all my Harnoncourt, Rilling and Richter, and my reactions with regard to HIP versus non-HIP continue to be hopelessly ambivalent. On the one hand, I am something of a recorder and oboe nut, and so am a real push-over for the sound of period woodwinds. On the other hand, as a former amateur singer, I tend to prefer female soprano and alto soloists who, while not operatic in their approach to things, have also not studied to try to sound like little boys, and choirs that use moderate tempi and can give me a sense of seriousness when the libretto seems to call for that quality
Since I am also a member of the Bach-cantatas mailing list, i have been reading, your opinions, together with those of others, concerning various cantatas and the larger-scale Bach vocal works. I am visually impaired and, as you can perhaps imagine, have found that it is hugely difficult to obtain textual information about baroque music, beyond the most elementary facts and generalizations, in braille, on audio tape, or even on disk. Web sites such as that for the cantatas, so easily accessible with the use of screen-reading software, are wonderful starting-point for persons who, like me, have enormous interest in the subject but comparatively little in-depth knowledge.
Bob Henderson wrote (June 6, 2003):
[To Joan M. Thomas] There is so much to discover! The range and field of Bach recordings available today is astounding! I wish you well on your quest and if I can be helpful please feel free to contact me. ( not an impartial observer: we favor Richter
and Suzuki )
Richard Smith wrote (June 6, 2003):
[To Joan M. Thomas] My name is Dick Smith and I have collected the works of Bach (and, yes, all other composers) since 1966, with an obsessive interest in Bach. My primary inspiration for writing is the visually impaired lady who wants to learn more and hear more. I have another visually-impaired friend who I have known since that time, and he has also collected Bach to the extreme. In addition he has carefully searched-out texts, articles, librettos, and such so he can apply braille and text-readers in the wonderful process of discovery. I have contacted him and maybe I can get him to subscribe to your group and communicate with you folks as well.
Barry Murray wrote (June 6, 2003):
[To Joan M. Thomas] Great to see another visually impaired member here. I have the same problems getting information, and find the Bach Cantatas website, and these e-mail groups absolutely essential.
Aryeh Oron wrote (June 7, 2003):
[To Joan M. Thomas] It is such a pleasure knowing that you find the material in the Bach Cantatas Website useful, using your reading machine.
A list of all his cantata albums on Brilliant Classics can be found at the page:
So, if you are interested in a certain cantata, you know in what album it is included.
Various discussions of Leusink's cantata recordings:
And, of course, under the individual discussion pages of each cantata (more than 180 cantatas have been discussed so far in the BCML).
Generalization is always a risky matter, and I try to avoid judging a certain rendition before hearing it in the context of comparative listening for the weekly cantata discussion. Nevertheless, IMO, the later volumes in Leusink cantata cycle are to be preferred. Firstly, because in many of the them you can hear Marcel Beekman, the best tenor singer in this series: young, indeed, but very capable with delightful voice. Secondly, because it seems that with the later volumes there is more chemistry between the soloists, and that works for the benefit of the duets. Thirdly, the choir singing seem to improve as the project progresses. There are at least two members of Holland Boys Choir in the BCML. I would like to know if they have similar impression.
Brilliant Classics Bach Edition
Jack Botelho wrote (March 25, 2004):
The above is a link to the Brilliant Classics Bach edition for those who like the idea of large amounts of music all at once at a budget price. It would seem this edition would be a good way to go regarding to acquiring the complete cantatas for the beginner. It would seem the Brilliant Classics editions are exploding onto the market. I only wish the cantatas were packaged in larger box sets.
Most of you are probably already familiar with this edition. I post this in case this is new to some here.
Bart O’Brien wrote (March 25, 2004):
[To Jack Botelho] Yes, but the (religious) cantatas have got very mixed reactions. Personally, for the optimum quality/price ratio I'd recommend buying some of the Rilling CDs from Berkshire Record Outlet.
Eric A. Kantchev wrote (March 25, 2004):
[To Bart O’Brien] This set is a very mixed bag of recordings. I own the Keyboard works II containing mostly the miscelaneous pieces, along with French and English suites and Art of fugue. Pretty nice performances, especially considering the price and the general unailavability of alternative recordings for many of them.
Brilliant classics has also issued the Christmas oratorio by performed by H. Christophers and The choir of 16. I was rather disappointed by it.
Any comments on this particular recording?
The sacred cantatas have been reviewed mildly negatively as a whole, that's the kind of impression I get from reading some reviewes online. But at least they are the second complete set on period instruments, and the only one digitally recorded. That might be worth something.
I have decided to stick with Harnoncourt/Leonhardt mostly because of the all-male cast and the certain raw feeling of these recordings. And for top notch performances, I will go for the Koopman set (being closer to completion than Suzuki).
Back to lurking now
Eric (just having packed 6 boxes of Bach's Teldec edition heading to Toronto)
Wang Xiao-yun wrote (March 25, 2004):
[To Jack Botelho] I got the complete box set from http://www.zweitausendeins.de/ last December at a very cheap price thanks to Mr. Thomas Radleff's information. The Teldec and Haenssler sets are both too expensive for me(the price of the Haenssler set equals to 6 months' complete salary for a person just graduated from college here), so the Brilliant set is a very effective way for me to get a comprehensive view on my favorite composer.
I have just finished going through the sacred cantatas for the first time. I generally like Leusink's lively interpretation. The bass Bas Ramselaar is very reliable and I always enjoy his singing. The Tenor singers are fine. I have a mixed feeling on Syste Buwalda. Sometime I found him quite expressive, but other times he seems not very stable. I like Ruth Holton's voice. Her BWV 199 is moving, but I was disappointed with her BWV 51.
Most of the performances in the chamber work box are satifactory. I don't like Schreier's secular cantatas, but it's better than nother. I have yet to explore the keyboard and organ work, and overall I'm very happy with the whole box.
Jack Botelho wrote (March 26, 2004):
[To Wang Xiao-yun] I can well understand your dislike of Schreier's directed work, but overall, this complete edition reads to be outstanding, all things considered. I too find the Teldec set(s) too expensive. I really like Leusink's work from the Vivaldi edition. It seems his ensemble worked around the clock in 1999 and 2000 to produce what will be considered some very memorable performances.
I think this Brilliant Classics Bach Edition will be the topic of admireable discussion for many years to come.
Thanks also Bart and Eric for the input.
Bradley Lehman wrote (March 26, 2004):
Jack Botelho wrote: < http://www.joanrecords.com/classical/bach/bach-index.html
Yes, but the (religious) cantatas have got very mixed reactions. >
Yes, but keep in mind that many of those especially negative reviews of the Leusink series, on the BCW: http://www.bach-cantatas.com
are by people who elevate their own preferences as absolute truth, but write it up as if they're being objective or know anything about performance practice. Too often, those reviews are just soapbox lectures to complain about things they don't really understand: writers having a strong anti-HIP bias, and with pseudo-scholarship masquerading as real scholarship. The preferences aren't stated clearly as PREFERENCES. Quite unfortunate.
Back in 2001 I too was swayed away from the series for far too long, misled by reading some of those regularly negative reviews, until I went ahead and ordered a few of the boxes anyway. I trust my own ears over people's written opinions, anyway. I was, and remain, very pleased with these Leusink performances overall. The interpretations are maybe a little generic here and there, and the choir sometimes under-rehearsed, but that's to be expected in the remarkable rate at which they recorded these. And, it's always stylish and worth hearing. A project very well done, all things considered. I'm still missing a few of the Leusink boxes but gradually picking them up.
In competition I have quite a few of the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt series, and Herreweghe, and a few Suzuki, and many scattered others. I really wouldn't want to be without any of them. There are so many ways the music sounds good and presents its message. We should be thankful that the music is already served this well by so many fine musicians, not focus so much on complaints. Musicians put a lot of work and sacrifice into recording projects, and rarely make back their own outlay of money and time on it...they deserve plenty of respect and admiration, not the shredding from sideline critics.
In addition, I strongly recommend the keyboard box. The Art of Fugue in there is one of the very best available on harpsichord anywhere, as are the concerto transcriptions and the Suites/Fantasias disc and the English Suites. (That's in my professional opinion as a harpsichordist!) And all the rest of that box is also at least fine. The way I look at it, for the price of two or three discs one gets the whole Brilliant Classics box, like lots of free music. No way to go wrong there.
I haven't heard the other B.C. portions, just (most of) the cantatas and the keyboard box.
Bart O’Brien wrote (March 27, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] I just don't like the sound the choir makes. That's all.
Jack Botelho wrote (March 27, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] The Complete Edition is 'reading' better and better all the time. Certainly, personal preferences have the ultimate validity for the listener, but it is unfortunate that one or two pseudo-critics as reported in the Bach Cantatas website have the effect of discouraging many readers to explore what is certainly to be one of the most important and comprehensive Bach editions which has the potential for reaching a much wider audience than usual Bach collectors.
With regard to personal preferences, for me Bach is first and foremost a keyboard composer, and the total of 4 separate Brilliant Classics volumes (2 volumes of organ works, some 17 cds; and 2 volumes of keyboard works, for a total of some 23 cds for a final total of 40 issues), especially considering what Mr Lehman has reported of the latter, reads to be a dream come true. I can hardly wait to listen to these.
Douglas wrote (March 28, 2004):
[To Jack Botelho] Here's my, somewhat opposing, view on the keyboard performances in this set.
I have most of the Brilliant Classics harpsichord disks (having acquired them separately), and I agree that the Art of Fugue is very well performed by Menno van Delft, on a good instrument too (a Graebner copy).
However, I was disappointed in almost all of the other harpsichord disks. The WTC, for example, is recorded on the "twin" of one of my harpsichords (same model, same builder), so I really feel that I should look favourably on it, but every time I go back to it, I come to the same conclusion: that it is extremely poorly performed.
So, for me, this set is one of a few hits and a lot of misses; but I only know the harpsichord disks.
Bradley Lehman wrote (March 29, 2004):
[To Douglas] Hi Douglas, who plays the WTC in there? The box I have (most of which I like) has 12 CDs: the van Delft AoF and toccatas, Belder's inventions & fantasias etc, Dirksen playing solo concerto transcriptions, van Asperen in the English Suites, and Payne in the French Suites. No WTC or the other miscellany, which was presumably sold separately in another box?
Philip Peters wrote (March 26, 2004):
Brad Lehman wrote: < Hi Douglas, who plays the WTC in there? >
Continue on Part 4
Pieter Jan Leusink: Short Biography | Holland Boys Choir | Netherlands Bach Collegium
Recordings: Part 1 | Part 2 | General Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
Individual Recordings: Leusink - Vol.1&2 | Leusink - Vol.3&4 | BWV 244 - Leusink | BWV 245 – Leusink
Articles: Interview with Pieter Jan Leusink | Interview with Frank Wakelkamp
Table of Recordings by BWV Number