Pieter Jan Leusink & Holland Boys Choir & Netherlands Bach Collegium
Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works
General Discussions - Part 4
Continue from Part 3
Juozas Rimas wrote (June 15, 2004):
Brad Lehman ley Lehman wrote: < accurate. I've reported previously, several times, that I myself delayed purchase of the Leusink recordings of cantatas several years ago: from believing some of the derogatory stuff Thomas Braatz had written in earlier discussions here. >
Frankly, from those several recordings by Leusink I have heard, his batch of singers didn't impress me at all.What have you find in Leusink's rendition that you haven't found in other recordings?
I'm re-listening to Leusink's BWV 26 "Ach wie fluechtig" now and even if a renowned singing teacher told me it is masterful singing, I couldn't be forced into enjoying the performances.Sytse Buwalda (alto), Nico van der Meel (tenor) - I have heard better singers in a local amateur choir that my girlfriend attends in leisure time! Meel was just extremely lucky to be published in such numbers. I also checked Leusink's other tenor, Knut Schoch, singing BWV 37. The impression is comparable to Meel's...
Bas Ramselaar (bass) sings surer but would you be pleased if he was the only bass in your collection? Ruth Holton (soprano) is amiable, I love her boyish voice and am prejudiced :)
So, a whole cantata recordings cycle for one singer (admitting there are enough even better sopranos)?
Bradley Lehman wrote (June 15, 2004):
Juozas Rimas wrote: < Frankly, from those several recordings by Leusink I have heard, his batch of singers didn't impress me at all. What have you find in Leusink's rendition that you haven't found in other recordings? >
1. I consider that every recording of Bach, by anybody, is worth hearing at least once, sometime: not dismissed outright without a listen. (That's only fair, plus one can learn something positive from anything by coming to it with a receptive attitude.) The music is so wonderful and multi-faceted, and can be presented believably in so many different ways, it's worth hearing different thoughts about it. Back when we were discussing cantatas week by week, I listened to all the samples whether I already liked any particular conductor's work or not, from earlier exposure. That's not the same as running out and buying everything. I buy only the things I care to hear repeatedly.
2. I like hearing these pieces at the pitch level of A=415, which Leusink uses. Also, I have one of my instruments here tuned to that pitch and can play along if I feel like it.
3. There's something nice about hearing all the cantatas performed by the same forces, whether one likes individual interpretations in the series or not. It presents a level playing field for the music, and is worth hearing: see #1 above.
4. Leusink's continuo players do a terrific job, throughout, and that's one of the most important things to me. They are well attentive to the meaning of the music, to the varied expression of the text and their melodic bass line: I find their performance really beautiful. That bass line is the soul of the music: both according to Bach as a composer (through his compositional process, as I see and play the lines he wrote) and Bach as a teacher (training his students to be all-around musicians), where Bach said explicitly that without good thoroughbass the music would be merely a devilish noise. (See pages 16-17 of the New Bach Reader.) The music makes its own case in that regard.
5. The singers get the message across adequately, even though I'm not all that fond of some of their tone quality or pitch. The message is the thing, more than basking in an undisturbing tonal beauty: these pieces by Bach are didactic ones, to communicate the message of the Sunday and the sermon through music. This comes across well.
6. I often like other recordings better than Leusink's, in direct comparison of individual movements, but so what? It's a terrific achievement anyway, and see #1 above. For the overall flow within each cantata, I find Leusink's performances convincing.
7. The cost of the set is so low, it's hard to see how anyone would not want to have this, to hear at least a decent rendition of all the pieces as reference.
8. Ruth Holton's singing, especially, moves me. There are countless other spots in vocal and instrumental solos that do so also.
9. Personally I find the volumes I've heard of Rilling's and Richter's series unlistenable (after one or two listens, see #1 above), on the basic articulation and phrasing of the orchestra and the treatment of dynamics within movements; Leusink's band is so much better aware of these stylistic issues. To me, the music sounds much more graceful and intense in Leusink's for that reason: and more natural, too. That's a plus, a huge one.
10. People here or anywhere who focus more on the singing than anything are welcome to assess performances by that, if that's what moves them. But, to me, the continuo and orchestra are at least as important to the message and style of the music as the singing, no matter how the singing is going. And my way of hearing/judging quality by the instrumental contribution is just as valid as anybody else's way of focusing on the vocal contribution: it's all part of the music. Not that I ignore the singing, at all; I just don't focus as EXCLUSIVELY on it as some others here appear to do.
John Pike wrote (June 15, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] I, too, am a great fan of Ruth Holton. Her singing in Gardiner's St John Passion is a particular delight for me.
The only complete cantata series I have is Harnoncourt/Leonhardt but some of it disappoints me. I am thinking of building up another series. Any recommendations for the best one (incomplete though most of them are at present)? Koopman and Suzuki come to mind. I have all Gardiner's recordings but there is no certainty he will release the others. I am hoping to get all Herreweghe's eventually. I particularly like the idea of Koopman since I understand he includes other versions of works. Is this true? Are Suzuki's performances better? How do people compare these two sets?
Donald Satz wrote (June 15, 2004):
[To John Pike] I favor Herreweghe, more dramatic and exciting than Suzuki with better singing as well. Koopman comes in third as I find him inconsistent.
John Pike wrote (June 15, 2004):
[To Donald Satz] Many thanks for this, Don. I think I heard on this list somewhere recently that Herreweghe does not have plans to record them all. Is that correct? I have just bought his SMP (BWV 244) 1st version and it has quickly become my favourite of the 4 versions I have (Richter 1958, Gardiner, Harnoncourt 2001 being the others). I also have Herreweghe's excellent recording of BWV 21 "Ich Hatte viel Bekuemernis".
Charles Francis wrote (June 15, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< 9. Personally I find the volumes I've heard of Rilling's and Richter's series unlistenable (after one or two listens, see #1 above), on the basic articulation and phrasing of the orchestra and the treatment of dynamics within movements; Leusink's band is so much better aware of these stylistic issues. To me, the music sounds much more graceful and intense in Leusink's for that reason: and more natural, too. That's a plus, a huge one. >
Speaking from personal experience, the Leusink series is unlikely to get more than a brief hearing before gathering dust. The pricing of Rilling is very competitive, and with much greater professionalism on offer, it is the better choice.
Craig Schweickert wrote (June 15, 2004):
[To Donald Satz] Herreweghe would get my vote, too, but he has repeatedly said he does not intend to record an /intégrale/. Leusink is a very mixed bag; too bad they couldn't have spent more time rehersing and found a countertenor other than Buwalda. Have heard maybe a third of the Koopman series and found much of it slick; two musician frienof mine who began collecting the series have independently decided to stop. Suzuki has his moments but often comes across as cautious/reverential to a fault and his choir and certain soloists don't sound particularly German (nor do Gardiner's for that matter). Am surprised Warner hasn't reissued the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt series at superbudget price; I'm sure there'd be lots of buyers, me among them. Nonetheless, the best approach is probably to cherry-pick, filling in any gaps from, say, Suzuki, as the disks are being issued individually. That way you won't miss great one-off discs like Accent ACC 9395 D (BWV 49, BWV 58 and above all BWV 82 with Argenta and Mertens under S. Kuijken) and Atma ACD2 2279 (BWV 131, BWV 152 and BWV 161 with LeBlanc, Taylor, Kobow and Varcoe under Daniel Taylor).
Donald Satz wrote (June 15, 2004):
[To John Pike] As far as I know, Herreweghe does not have any plans to record all the cantatas. Besides, at the pace he has been going, he'd have to complete the cycle from the grave.
I agree with his SMP (BWV 244) 1st version being the best around, more primitive than his 2nd.
Stevan Vasiljevic [Serbia] wrote (June 16, 2004):
Living in a country where Bach's vocal music has a handful of fans. (I've written about reasons for this at BCML on Friday, October 03, 2003 11:00, subject Bach and Russia). I also come from a low-income country. So when music distributors acquire music sets, they choose cheaper ones, the ones like those Brilliant Classics publishes. Through Leusink's recordings I have now the opportunity to get acquainted with Bach's cantatas. I find a lot of pleasure listening to them, although I'm well aware of their limitations. I've heard most of the other renowned performers of Bach and I can see why they have made their name (Suzuki, Gardiner, Richter and many many others). I even have one or two performances by each of them in my collection. I must say I regret that I don't have more of these, but, frankly, I can't buy them in this country, and when I was abroad, I saw couldn't afford them. So, I'd say that quality of Leusink's recordings by far exceeds their price.
P.S.: Charles wrote:
> The pricing of Rilling is very competitive. <
That may be so. However, presonaly I don't care a lot about his performances. Their sound is not quite to my taste. But still, I have some of his cantatas, and wouldn't give them up.
Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 16, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote: "The pricing of Rilling is very competitive, and with much greater professionalism on offer, it is the better choice."
This is factual is it? Rilling is more professional than Leusink? And you wonder why anyone takes you seriously?! Prefer Rilling if you like - there's nothing wrong with that - but asserting that he is more professional than Leusink is both insulting and ridiculous.
Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 16, 2004):
Donald Satz wrote: "I favor Herreweghe, more dramatic and exciting than Suzuki with better singing as well."
Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 16, 2004):
Donald Satz wrote: "I agree with his SMP (BWV 244) 1st version being the best around, more primitive than his 2nd."
If only René Jacobs wasn't the alto soloist...
Pablo Fagoaga wrote (June 16, 2004):
[To Craig Schweickert] From the sets that do exist (complete or in progress), I would take Koopman's. Leonhardt/Harnoncourt are wonderful, but this boy soprano stuff sincerely spoils the set, sometimes too much.
Richard van Schelven wrote (June 17, 2004):
[To Pablo Fagoaga] I've been recently listening to the Rilling's. I thought they are very beautiful. Sometimes however the choir seems to break out. He also has that in his "Ein Choralbuch£ recodings. However, Herreweghe has my vote. A pity that he will not record them all!
PS. I stopped listening to Leusink on the Bach Edition. I can just not stand Buwalda.
Continue of this discussion, see: Recordings of Bach Cantatas - General Discussions - Part 8: Year 2004 [General Topics]
Order of Leusink's Cantatas
John Luther wrote (September 13, 2004):
I am new to this group but I have been reading your posts for years. Pls allow me to divert from the current subject to introduce myself, discuss my interest in Bach and to ask the group a question.
As a result of reading some of your older posts I purchased and I'm currently listening to Bach's sacred cantatas by Leusink. The more I listen to Bach the more I see his obviously strong reformed Christian faith. But I was not expecting to see it in Leusink!
I was shocked and excited when I played the first CD and discovered the first cantata was BWV 80, "A Mighty Fortress." I am a reformed Christian so I wrote to Leusink's wife Christine asking her if Jan started with this cantata because he was also a reformed Christian. She said yes!
Christine would not elaborate as to the reason for the rest of Leusink's order but I must say that I do see an order as I go through the set. It is not random as someone in this group had suggested and posted earlier. I don't mean for this to sound like a creation vs. evolution discussion but just like Bach and I both see a "predestined" order in God's handiwork in creation, I also see a "predestined" (lol) order in Leusink's handiwork.
I have only been listening seriously to Bach and reading about him over the past few years so I hate to speculate as to the reason for Leusink's order.
I do believe however, that being a reformed Christian provides great insight in understanding "the essence of Bach," as Calvin Stappert refers to Bach's Cantatas in his book "My Only Comfort," where he compares the cantatas to the Calvinist German Heidelberg Catechism. As it turns out now, it seems that being a reformed Christian is also a great aid in understanding Leusink. I know that there are many critics of Leusink's "rush work" in this group, but thank God there were some who gave the set positive reviews. It really is a great set for the money (I got it for $85). So now, in true reformed fashion, even a plow-boy can begin to understand Bach and the great reformed Christian doctrines he preached through his music.
Pls allow me to be a little preachy and just add that being a reformed Christian, like Bach, has also enabled me to gain a great understanding of History, Literature, Science, Math, Art and of course Music. Of course my intent in embracing the reformed faith was not to gain knowledge, but instead to run to Christ alone by faith alone for salvation. After this "all things are being added unto me."
Anyway, if anyone has any insight into Leusink's order pls let me know. My guess is it will enable me to gain a deeper and more thorough knowledge of Bach.
Cal (a CPA in Atlanta)
Thomas Braatz wrote (September 13, 2004):
John Luther (Cal) wrote: >>As a result of reading some of your older posts I purchased and I'm currently listening to Bach's sacred cantatas by Leusink.<<
Any Bach recordings of the sacred cantatas are better than none at all, but the general quality of the Leusink set compared to others (admittedly more expensive) reflects the cheap price at which they are currently available. Unfortunately Clemens Romijn, in his notes for Vol. I, would want us to believe the quality of the Leusink series is comparable to the performances that Bach gave in Leipzig and elsewhere. Romijn states: "...much to Bach's annoyance [his] performances often left much to be desired." This is a dangerous assumption and paints a terrible picture of great composer whose musical intentions were being crucified almost on a weekly basis. Bach may have complained about many things during his Leipzig tenure, but I can not remember ever reading anything even remotely negative about the performances of his primary choir/soloists/instrumentalists. It would appear that until I hear or read otherwise, this notion about Bach's chuperformances 'often leaving much to be desired' may be entirely imagined on the part of Romijn. Was Bach pressed for time? Yes, but here the comparison between Bach who was not only composing but also performing the music and Leusink who undertook to perform and record all the sacred cantatas in a relatively short period ends. Compare Leusink's recordings with others that are available and the differences in quality become quite apparent.
>>The more I listen to Bach the more I see his obviously strong reformed Christian faith. But I was not expecting to see it in Leusink!
I was shocked and excited when I played the first CD and discovered the first cantata was BWV 80, "A Mighty Fortress." I am a reformed Christian so I wrote to Leusink's wife Christine asking her if Jan started with this cantata because he was also a reformed Christian. She said yes!<<
If this is the case, then Leusink made a poor choice on the basis of musical integrity (as far as just what Bach's intentions were with BWV 80) but a good one based upon church doctrine and/or personal preference. The transmission of BWV 80 is based upon anything but the solid foundation implied by its title as the history of this work which Romijn's notes that accompany Vol. I explain. We have the text for a cantata BWV 80a "Alles, was von Gott geboren" which Bach composed in Weimar for Oculi in 1715. (Contrary to Romijn, we do know for what purpose BWV 80a was written and set to music.) Because Bach found no way later on, as he often did with other cantatas from his pre-Leipzig period, to incorporate this cantata into the Leipzig services where no figural music was permitted during this part of the church year, he went through a number of stages in reworking the musical material of BWV 80a (which is lost)to make it possible to use for another occasion: The Feast of the Reformation (Reformationsfest-not necessarily on a Sunday -- so we do know for what purpose BWV 80 was being created.) A number of transformations were undertaken between 1728 and 1731 and perhaps the magnificent opening chorus was composed and added even later around 1735 while he was working on a similar chorus for BWV 14. Add to this that fact that we really do not know for sure what the intended orchestration is: for instance, the trumpet parts were added to the cantata by W. F. Bach after his father's death. J. S. Bach never heard it performed the way it is usually performed today!
Although J. S. Bach was great at reusing, reworking and pasting together cantatas (sometimes through parodies), there are always certain aspects where this process begins to show through. Sometimes he is more successful in accomplishing what he wanted, but other times not without 'having the rough edges showing.' Certainly a more unified work completely transmitted with autograph and original parts would have provided a slightly more 'solid foundation' upon which to begin a cantata series. BWV 80 does not fulfill this requirement.
It would appear, moreover, that some complete cantata series such as Rilling's, for example, do put the more popular cantatas in the early volumes, probably in an effort to capture at first the interest of casual listeners, thus motivating them to purchase the ensuing volumes as they were being issued. This is understandable, although a chronological or church-year sequence would be more meaningful in beginning to understand Bach's music better. Even with the complete sacred cantata collection, such as Leusink's or Rilling's, in hand, a casual, uninformed listener would tend to start exploring with Vol. I. The performers would do well 'to put their best foot forward' at this point.
John Pike wrote (September 13, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < Romijn states: "...much to Bach's annoyance [his] performances often left much to be desired." This is a dangerous assumption and paints a terrible picture of great composer whose musical intentions were being crucified almost on a weekly basis. Bach may have complained about many things during his Leipzig tenure, but I can not remember ever reading anything even remotely negative about the performances of his primary choir/soloists/instrumentalists. It would appear that until I hear or read otherwise, this notion about Bach's church performances 'often leaving much to be desired' may be entirely imagined on the part of Romijn. >
Agreed. Without wanting to get into a discussion on OVPP v not OVPP again, I think I am right in saying that Bach generally used only the First Choir of his best musicians for concerted church music in Leipzig. Far from denigrating these musicians, the testimonials/assessments he wrote about them were uniformly positive. The less able and "not usable" people, and those he classed as "not musicians at all" were not used in concerted church music.
Bradley Lehman wrote (October 12, 2004):
Is there currently a good place to pick up the Leusink boxed sets of cantatas, in the US?
I caught about five or six of them last year at Berkshire Record Outlet, and am now up to ten of the boxes by watching eBay where scalpers offer them. But, is there some regular retail source where I can finish this off?
By my calculations I'm missing volumes 9, 11, and any that would be 13 or higher.
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (October 12, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] I only got the 6 set (as I recall) at BRO and then forgot about them. Brilliant seems to be a problem these days. Thanks for bringing up the matter again.
Adam Stange wrote (October 13, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] I may have one or two of those volumes at home. I can check this weekend. I was regularly buying them every weekend at Tower Records in Shibuya. then halfway through my completing the set, Brilliant released the box set, so i just bought that instead. So obviously have doubles of quite a few of the cds(volumes).
On a side note, I apologize to whomever wanted a copy of the "Anna Magdalena" DVD that didn't get a copy. I got a couple out then the proverbial S**T hit the fan as far as how crazy my schedule was my last few months in Tokyo.
Foolishly enough, I didn't get a copy for myself, so I can't even make copies from that. sorry.
Eric Bergerud wrote (October 13, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] As Yoel's post and an investigation of the list's archives seem to indicate, Leusnik doesn't have a lot of fans here. Let me offer a quick case for the defense. (I have five volumes, two early, three late. Enough to pontificate. <G>)
1. Money is a consideration for some poor souls. You can still pick up a full series of Harnoncourt for about $600. I suspect the whole Koopman series will be more. Suzuki goes for $20 per: the math is sort of intimidating. I don't think anyone should apologize for trying to save money when buying music. (As noted earlier Brilliant's Telemann's Taflemusik is one of the best recent additions to my collection at any price. Having 4 CDs, I wouldn't have bought it at full price and probably never found out how good the music is. Do check Brilliant's new releases on Archiv: I don't think they are anything to sneer at.)
2. Day in day out, I think Leusnik has perfectly good soloists. I like Ruth Holton a lot, and she has some splendid moments on the set. Our archive critics knock tenor Nico von der Meel, but he sounds awfully good to my tin ear. Ditto with bass Bas Ramselaar. Our in-house critics come down on alto Sytse Buwalde. They may have a point here: he's no Mera. Yet with any alto you're dealing with two questions: should you use an alto and is the alto good? Maybe Leusnik should have worked a mezzo in there to at least split the duty. Yet using an alto is an honest decision and Buwalde has some good moments too. I find the instrumentalists perfectly good: someone plays a good oboe.
3. Leusnik uses boys in the choir. This is another historically honest choice. Leusnik claimed that the way the set was produced ruout using boy soloists, but most of his competitors do without altogether. I you like a boys choir (I do) this is real plus.
4. The performances are very straight forward: tempos are middle of the road (that doesn't mean bad) and no one's virtuosity is going to get in the way of the performance. Let me try to explain briefly. I'm not going to argue that musical skills displayed in Leusnik compare with what you'll find with Ton Koopman, Suzuki or Gardiner. I was listening to Suzuki's Actus tragicus the other day, almost physically struck by the sheer beauty of the singing and playing. It's wonderful music in every way. But I can't shake the idea that the kind of polish and brilliance displayed by Suzuki (the same is true with the other conductors mentioned) is very far from what Bach would have listened to. Obviously I may be wrong here, but Leusnik's "keep it simple" approach I believe is closer to the spirit of original Bach. This may be a completely irrelevant consideration for many, but antiquarian considerations have meaning for yours truly. (Obviously this makes me a Harnoncourt/Leonhardt fan. I've got about 20 of their CD's and would like them all: anyone want to lend me their VISA? Oh well, there's gotta be some reason to continue working.)
5. Because Bach's music is so wonderful even less than perfect performers can deliver great stuff. I have found Leusnik to be a great "stalking horse." If I stumble on a cantata that I really like, I note it on my mindless mini-data base and look for a duplicate among the big guns. And I don't chuck the Leusnik CD when I duplicate it. The new performance may be musically superior, but it will be different. And it probably won't have boys. Anyway, I like the Leusnik set. Just to show you that I'm not completely alone in the world, the quote below comes the assessment of the Leusnik set in the 2003 Gramophone Classical CD Guide:
"In sum, these readings deserve to be recognized, primarily for their attractive and well-measured strides, but also for a lack of dogma or self-importance. Hard-driven and intermittently rough in places (especially string intonation), they are nevertheless consistently honest, rarely disastrous and occasionally illuminating statements. Bachians, old and new, should investigate the series with eager circumspection, taking the rough with the smooth but relishing the open-hearted spirt of the enterprise. The best performances will bring the listener close to the solar plexus of Bach's 'Kantantenwelt'."
Charles Francis wrote (October 13, 2004):
Eric Bergerud wrote: < 1. Money is a consideration for some poor souls. You can still pick up a full series of Harnoncourt for about $600. >
I picked up the complete Harnoncourt set from a Spanish distributor for EUR 233.34 + EUR 6.00 P&P for delivery to Switzerland. I guess the Internet is bad news for Teldec!
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (October 13, 2004):
[To Charles Francis] Some of us USAers picked up the Harnoncourt-Leonhardt set for $300 at BRO. I recall every year during the Bachfest on WFUV (the radio station of Fordham University in NYC) a man who lent them his LPs of this set would proclaim that the set would NEVER be issued on CDs; "run and get the LP set". Glad I resisted that idea. No room. As to the recently announced Werner set, I assume that the three volumes issued are only 1/2 of the intended (or is that all that there is?). At all events the 30 CDs come, if I figure correctly, to c.$150 (USA). That would be $300 for a complete set (if there is such). Since I very much did not care for this set when I had a number of them on LPs, for that price I am most likely not interested (except for cantata BWV 53 of course).
Eric Bergerud wrote (October 13, 2004):
[To Charles Francis] 234 Euros? What's that, about $800 US? <G>
Neil Halliday wrote (October 13, 2004):
Eric Bergerud wrote: <"Suzuki goes for $20 per: the math is sort of intimidating.">
And despite the undoubted high quality of the Suzuki recordings, one will by no means end up with the most desirable performances, in all cases.
For example, in my notes on BWV 12, alto aria, I notice I have written (of my preferences): 1.Woeldike, 2.Richter, 3.Rilling, 4.Suzuki (too light).
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (October 13, 2004):
[To Neil Halliday] Let's see, Neil, said alto soloist in 1. just happens to be Hilde(gard) Rössl-Majdan. There is only one problem I have with that woman: one has to search under four spellings: Rössl-M, Rössel-M, Roessl-M, and Roessel-M. I go through the process regularly.
Neil Halliday wrote (October 13, 2004):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote: <"...said alto soloist in 1. just happens to be Hilde(gard) Rössl-Majdan">
Hi Yoel. It's interesting that you mention her name.
Yesterday, I had intended to send a message regarding Scherchen's 1952 recording of BWV 198, which is on a disc you referred to recently; I notice the same lady is (alto) soloist in that recording. (The message was eaten up by the internet; and in any case I have doubts about recommending old mono recordings, especially when it seems *every* member of the choir, in the opening movement, is singing with a pronounced vibrato. In fairness, the 'Vienna Academy Chamber Choir' sounds much better in the remaining two choruses, and overall Scherchen's performance has a charming, intimate character that suits the piece, despite certain faults, including some lack of finesse in the orchestra).
Hilde Roessl-Majdan's voice (spelling according to the cover of the Archipel CD!), along with all the other soloists, is attractive on
that CD also.
(BTW, Eric, 234 euros is currently about US$280).
John Luther wrote (October 13, 2004):
I acquired the Bach Cantata Leusink set fro e-bay and I love it! Thank God it is affordable to us peasants (in true reformation style!).
Complete Cantata Cycle for listening in the BCW
Aryeh Oron wrote (December 27, 2004):
We are approaching rapidly the beginning of the 2nd round of cantata discussions, and I have great news for you.
I was permitted by Joan Records to present in the Bach Cantatas Website the complete cantata cycle of Pieter Jan Leusink with Holland Boys Choir & Netherlands Bach Collegium.
You can get at each cantata recording through either the "Index to Music Examples from Bach Works": http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/index.htm
or the Recordings page of the cantata (the orange section at the top).
The music is presented not for downloading but for stream listening through the Web (ram format). It means that in order to listen to the music you need broadband and RealPlayer, which can be freely downloaded from RealNetworks.
From now on, no excuse to avoid participating in the cantata discussions like "I do not have a recording of this cantata" would be accepted! (-:
Please report to me off-list of any technical problem you might find.
Happy New Year & Enjoy,
Russel Telfer wrote (December 29, 2004):
[To Aryeh Oron] Just one snag, Aryeh
In several country districts of England, there is no possibility of accessing broadband - yet - for love or money!
Local enthusiasts have other means of obtaining what is needed, but the excuse, for some, will remain real.
Happy New Year and Thanks to you for your continuing work in managing the site.
Eric Bergerud wrote (December 29, 2004):
[To Russell Telfer] I would think that if you're just listening to audio that a dial-up connection would be adequate. In pre-DSL days I was able to listen to samples on Amazon. Even video was possible if you didn't mind jerky movement and a postage stamp sized screen. The buffering might cause some interruptions but I'd sure give it a try. A kind gesture indeed by Leusnik or the powers that be. I know his recordings are not to everyone's taste, but Ruth Holton is a delight to my ears. And Leusnik does use a boys choir, but not boy soloists. (Hope the plug doesn't get me kicked off the list.)
Thomas Shepherd wrote (December 29, 2004):
Eric Bergerud wrote: < A kind gesture indeed by Leusnik or the powers that be. I know his recordings are not to everyone's taste, but Ruth Holton is a delight to my ears. >
I've never heard ANY Leusnik before. I was instantly struck to Ruth Holton on BWV 199. I look forward to more explorations in this series and to make sense of why they have been so poorly regarded by so many.
Iman de Zwarte wrote (December 29, 2004):
Thomas Shepherd wrote: < I've never heard ANY Leusnik before. >
That's right! His name is Leusink, Pieter-Jan Leusink.
At http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Leusink-Pieter-Jan.htm you'll find a short (?) biography.
Thomas Shepherd wrote (December 30, 2004):
[To Iman de Zwarte] OK -so I can't spell!
Of course I knew of Pieter-Jan Leusink and his Bach Cantata cycle and have read his biography, but now that it's possible to HEAR the music itself streamed through http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/index.htm.
We should all be most grateful to Joan Records and to Aryeh for the work on the web site in making listening to these recordings a very simple business.
Ordering of Brilliant Complete Bach Edition Cantatas
Kurt Jensen wrote (January 4, 2005):
Could anyone provide guidance on making sense of the ordering system by which the cantatas in the Brilliant Complete Bach Edition have been arranged. Perhaps I am lazy or ignorant, but they don't seem to make sense chronologically, by performance date, by liturgical function, or by BWV number.
Any advice would be appreciated.
Aryeh Oron wrote (January 4, 2005):
[To Kurt Jensen] AFAIK, there is no systematic logic behind the order in which the cantatas are arranged in Brilliant Classics (Leusink) series. They are simply arranged more or less according to the recording dates.
If you want to know in which album a certain cantata is included, please take a look at the 'Table of Cantata Recordings by Major Conductors according to BWV Number': http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Recordings-Table.htm
BTW, the table has been updated to include the recent cantata releases by Koopman, Suzuki, Gardiner and Herreweghe.
Thomas Shepherd wrote (January 4, 2005):
[To Aryeh Oron] I never knew these pages existed.
A great help!!
Paul T. McCain wrote (January 9, 2005):
Your opinion of this Cantata collection
What is this group's opinion of this collection of the Cantatas?
Bach, J.S. "DIE KOMPLETTEN GEISTLICHEN KANTATEN"
Mit Ruth Holton, Marjon Strijk/Sopran, Sytse Buwalda/Countertenor, Marcel Beekman, Robert Getchell, Nico van der Meel, Knut Schoch/Tenor, Bas Ramselaar/Bass, Holland Boys Choir, Netherlands Bach Collegium/Pieter Jan Leusink. Brilliant Classics. Aufnahme Januar/Februar 2000. Achtung Reste! DDD. Brilliant Classics. 60 CDs
89,99 EUR. Nr. 50402. Add to Orderpad.
Mehr zu Klassik.
Bradley Lehman wrote (January 9, 2005):
< What is this group's opinion of this collection of the Cantatas? Netherlands Bach Collegium/Pieter Jan Leusink. Brilliant Classics. 60 CDs 89,99 EUR >
The group's opinion is mixed. Some members don't like the singing, or the sometimes generic interpretations--the whole cycle was recorded very quickly and without huge amounts of time for rehearsal, or "living into" the compositions. And some of the group, it seems, simply doesn't enjoy "historically informed" manners of performance at all (of which the Leusink set is a fairly moderate example) and use this recording as a whipping-boy for complaints, as to the singing and tempos and whatnot. Everybody brings different expectations.
But overall, my opinion is that the Leusink set is worth a lot more than the asking price, which is such a very low price that it's almost free. It's better to have it around than not to have it around. The instrumental contributions in there are very fine, especially the basso continuo team's melodic shaping of their line. And it's a herculean task to play and sing all that music!
Deciding on a purchase of the whole thing? Listen to it for yourself to decide if you fancy it, either in the web streaming or by buying a couple of the boxes separately first. The price is so low, it's hard to go too far wrong with this one. I've picked up about 2/3 of it so far. I wouldn't want this to be my only recording of the cantatas, but it's very nice to have anyway. I listen to these recordings both for sheer enjoyment and to study the pieces. I've played through some of these for professional colleagues who were pleasantly surprised, having not heard of these performers before but simply hearing the results "cold" without expectation.
Bravo to Leusink and his team for taking on such a huge project and seeing it all the way through, with results that are always dependable or better. I'd like to hear more character to it here and there sometimes, sure, but one could do a whole lot worse and pay a lot more money at the same time. Musicians deserve the support of enthusiastic and legal purchasers.
Eric Bergerud wrote (January 9, 2005):
I have previously defended Leusink on the list - they are straight forward and include boys which is a real plus for me. If you stumble on one of the really el-cheapo entire sets, you don't have much to lose. I think I'd try ebay and buy a box or two: a 5CD box goes from $15-18. Gramophone gave a general thumbs up. They do note that the performances got better as the series got going. I think there are 12 volumes of cantatas (not to be confused with the far great number of Brilliant's entire Bach collection: that means every box has TWO volume numbers: it should be clear on ebay): I agree that the performances are somewhat better after Vol. 5 than in the first few. I'd say the highlight of the series is Ruth Holton, a splendid singer on a good day. In any case, I agree with Brad that nobody has to apologize for owning any or part of this series. They stand on their own quite nicely. They lack the almost incredible polish that you'd find in Suzuki or Koopman, but, I think in some ways Leusink is truer to the spirit of the Bach cantata as Bach himself would have thought of them.
Arjen van Gijssel wrote (January 9, 2005):
[To Bradley Lehman] I entirely agree with Brad. Through the Leusink set, Bach's cantata world has become known to the public at large. Leusink e.a. don't show you the nicest spots and viewpoints in this world, but you can still go with other guides. The orchestra is good, the choir is often terrible, but still: the whole set voor 90 euro is value for money.
Eric Bergerud wrote (January 10, 2005):
[To Arjen van Gijssel] Does anyone on the list have any idea whether the Leusink idea was considered a success or a failure? Several factors enabled him to record and sell a complete Cantata set in record time. (I do not think the rapid schedule was a liability: might have helped.) The idea was that Holland and some of northern Europe would be in possession of Bach Cantatas in very large numbers because the edition was so inexpensive. Did the Dutch come and buy Bach Cantatas at the local drugstore? Is Leusink the most listened-to Bach conductor in recent history? Or did this whole venture prove that not even a European Wal-Mart can't sell Bach choral music?
Kirk McElhearn wrote (January 10, 2005):
[To Eric Bergerud] The entire set sold tens of thousands of units, mostly in a drugstore chain in the Netherlands. As for other countries, I don't know.
Lex Schelvis wrote (January 10, 2005):
[To Eric Bergerud] According to an article in a Dutch newspaper of some time ago (Volkskrant july 6, 2000) the Kruitvat-issue of the complete Bach was in sales a gigantic succes, ("a million-seller"), but that caused a decrease of sales for the regular music stores and a decrease of new issues. So what is a success?
And do the Dutch listen more to Bach now? I've seen in householfs boxes with the cantates still in cellofane, years after the purchase. But probably these people would never have purchased full price CD's.
Let's first define the notions success and fail.
Iman de Zwarte wrote (January 10, 2005):
Eric Bergerud wrote: < Did the Dutch come and buy Bach Cantatas at the local drugstore? >
Yes, at least I did! Take a look at www.kruidvat.nl and go into the entertainmentshop in the left-meny. You'll be surprised about the prices! And, in fact, every time I'm in Holland on holiday (living in Norway, where the big Brilliant Classics-boxes now also are to find in cd-shops) I will go into every Kruidvat-shop I know. For not only have they cheap cd's, the interpretations ar (mostly) between acceptable and very good. But I have to be honest: I'm not always buying everything.
you'll find a little bit more information (in German), written in november 2000 by our member Johan van Veen.
< Is Leusink the most listened-to Bach conductor in recent history? >
Well, my first thought was: this is too cheap to be good - after the first impression (well, it's not thàt bad) I bought the complete set, just to have all the Bach-cantatas as an archive, like I do want to possess all the notes. Normally, I hate to buy a "the complete ....you name it...." by one interpreter. The Leusink-set is affordable, that's (in my opinion) all. So my answer is: I hope not - and I don't think so. It's just a typical Dutch fenomenon: cheap....
Paul T. McCain wrote (January 10, 2005):
Leusink follow up
The price of the entire collection is 117 euros, plus about another 29 for shipping, for a total of about 147 euros which is $192 dollars.
Continue on Part 5
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