Recordings/Discussions
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Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127

Motets BWV 225-231
General Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Bach Motets with boy trebles

Thomas Wood wrote (February 12, 2002):
I have the old (late '60s) recording of Bach's Motets with the Choir of King's College, Cambridge with David Willcocks and it's never impressed me much -- rather sluggish and even sloppy at times.

Are there any really outstanding recordings of these pieces with an all-male choir? I thought I saw a recording by the Windsbacher boys a few years ago, and I'm certainly impressed by their recording of the Mass in b.

I also have Gardiner's recording with the Monteverdi Choir, which fills the bill on the mixed-chorus side.

A. Brain wrote (February 22, 2002):
[To Thomas Wood] I have liked the Regensburg recording since it came out on LP in the mid-'70s. My CD is on DGG Galleria 4271172. It's not as complete as the LP set, as I recall.

Windsbacher on Bellaphon 69001005, only Singet, BWV 225 and Jesu, BWV 227.

MHS offers Christ Church Choir, BWV 225, 227. 228, 230.

Johan van Veen wrote (February 22, 2002):
[To A. Brain] There is also a recording by the Augsburger Domsingknaben in the budget series of deutsche harmonia mundi (Baroque Esprit). There seems to be a recording by the Tölzer Knabenchor, which I don't know. There has been an older one, released on LP by Philips in the "Living Baroque" series. I liked that one, but I don't think it has ever been reissued on CD.

Charles Francis wrote (Fevruary 13, 2002):
< Johan van Veen wrote: There is also a recording by the Augsburger Domsingknaben in the budget series of deutsche harmonia mundi (Baroque Esprit). >
This is my favourite! IMO, the relentless Junghaenel 'One Voice Per Part' approach becomes monotonous after a while, illustrating the folly of misapplying Rifkin's ideas.

Simon Roberts wrote (February 13, 2002):
[To Charles Francis] No, no, it's Rifkin who misapplies Rifkin's ideas....

Philip Peters wrote (February 13, 2002):
[To Simon Roberts] LOL. I think it's true. Parrott sounds better than Rifkin for instance. But the Junghänel was a revelation to me.

Simon Roberts wrote (February 13, 2002):
[To Philip Peters] For me too (though I could imagine it being done with better voices); the variety of articulation Junghanel's group achieves surpasses what any choir is capable of. I'm looking forward to McCreesh's one-per-part SMP concerts next month. At least some of the singers are wonderful (e.g. Kozena).

Mark K. Ehlert wrote (February 13, 2002):
< Simon Roberts wrote: I'm looking forward to McCreesh's one-per-part SMP concerts next month. At least some of the singers are wonderful (e.g. Kozena). >
Is this concert (tour?) taking place State-side or overseas?

Simon Roberts wrote (February 13, 2002):
[To Mark K. Ehlert] London, St John's Smith Square, two successive evenings c. March 20. I don't know whether they're taking it elsewhere. I believe a recording with them is in the works.

Johan van Veen wrote (February 14, 2002):
[To Simon Roberts] Hopefully that will be better than his recording of the Easter Oratorio (reasonable) and Magnificat (awful).

Simon Roberts wrote (February 14, 2002):
[To Johan van Veen] Indeed (on all counts).

Charles Francis wrote (February 14, 2002):
[To Simon Roberts] I agree about the McCreesh's Magnificat. The main problem is the wobbly female voices, while the second main problem is the ridiculous tempo choices. For 'One Voice Per Part', there are infinitely better recordings available from Rifkin and Parrott. McCreesh's Easter Oratorio reaches the 'OK/Could-do-better' grade, but is seriously outclassed by Parrott's 'One Voice Per Part'.

Johan van Veen wrote (February 14, 2002):
< Charles Francis wrote: I agree about the McCreesh's Magnificat. The main problem is the wobbly female voices, while the second main problem is the ridiculous tempo choices. >
You are right about the female voices. I don't have a problem with the tempi in the Magnificat as such, but IMO those tempi are very demanding and can only be used by singers for whom Bach's music is meat and drink. And that's definitely not the case with the Gabrieli Consort. Only an ensemble like Cantus Cölln can afford to sing Bach in that kind of tempo. Only they can sing fast and articulate well at the same time. McCreesh makes a mess of the Magnificat.

John Thomas wrote (February 13, 2002):
[To Charles Francis] Cantus Colln is a far better ensemble than any group Rifkin was able to put together. If you find them boring you probably tend to dislike madrigals.

Charles Francis wrote (February 14, 2002):
[To John Thomas] This may well be true, but I think Rifkin's insights go deeper than just 'One Voice Per Part', redefining the balance between voice and instrument and avoiding virtuosity in the church cantatas. Having said that, I have no wish to demean the excellent work of Cantus Colln. I first heard Junghaenel conduct some ten years ago at an Early Music festival and have since watched his group go from strength to strength. I do admire their performances which, dare I say it, remind me somewhat of the virtuosity of the Swingle Singers. However, when comparing the Motet performances by Cantus Colln with those of the Augsburger Domsingknaben, I find the latter superior. I rather suspect this is an issue of informed historical performance practice since Motets are sung by boys rather than women, and moreover the CD notes tell us:

"In the present recording by the Augsburg Cathedral Choirboys, every effort was made to meet as closely as possible the scoring ideal recommended by Bach ... Bach remarked in a memorandum from 23 August, 1730: 'In order that the choruses of church pieces may be performed by the choirs as is fitting, the vocalists must in turn be divided into 2 sorts, namely, concertists and ripienists. In the same document we read the following regarding the vocal forces of the Kantorei: 'Every musical choir should contain at least 3 sopranos, 3 alto, 3 tenors and as many basses, so that given the case one should be indisposed [...] at least a double-chorus motet can still be sung." Read the rest of this message... (56 more lines)

For me, it is this combination of concertists and ripienists in the Augsburger Domsingknaben performance that mitigates the lack of an independent orchestral part and maintains interest throughout. And, by the way, I do enjoy madrigals and have done since my early teens. Luca Marenzio, Thomas Morley and Thomas Weelkes were my favourites back then.

A. Brain wrote (February 15, 2002):
< Charles Francis wrote: "In the present recording by the Augsburg Cathedral Choirboys, every effort was > made to meet as closely as possible the scoring ideal recommended by Bach >
Anyone have a source of this Auguburg recording on DHM?

Charles Francis wrote (February 14, 2002):
[To A. Brain] Yes: Amazon.com

Surely a bargain at this price!

David Gable wrote (February 15, 2002):
< This is my favourite! IMO, the relentless Junghaenel 'One Voice Per Part' approach becomes monotonous after a while, illustrating the folly of misapplying Rifkin's ideas. >
The misapplication of Rifkin's ideas originated with Rifkin.

Samir Golescu wrote (February 15, 2002):
[To David Gable] Or perhaps he did apply them correctly..... but then......

Simon Roberts wrote (February 13, 2002):
< Thomas Wood wrote: [snip] I also have Gardiner's recording with the Monteverdi Choir, which fills the bill on the mixed-chorus side. >
This doesn't address your question, of course (I've not heard any all-male recordings), but if you have any interest in the one-per-part-mixed side, and if it's in print, try Junghaenel's on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi - one of the most successful one per part Bach performances I've heard and my favorite recording of the pieces.

Johan van Veen wrote (February 13, 2002):
[To Simon Roberts] I don't know that one, but something which irritates me is the habit of omitting the second verse of the second section of "Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied" in morecordings, whereas Bach is clearly asking the two "choirs" to switch their roles and sing another verse. As far as I know only Gardiner and Jacobs are doing what Bach asked to do.

Nicolas Hodges wrote (February 13, 2002):
[To Johan van Veen] Christ Church Oxford (MHS/ASV) do it as specified.

John Thomas wrote (February 13, 2002):
[To Simon Roberts] Mine, too. I think it's OP in the US, but hopefully still available at German sites.

Philip Peters wrote (February 13, 2002):
[To Simon Roberts] And mine. I don't think any other version I've heard comes even close.

Maurizio Frigeni wrote (February 14, 2002):
< Thomas Wood wrote: Are there any really outstanding recordings of these pieces with an all-male choir? >
I have the old Hilliard Ensemble/Knabenchor Hannover recording (1985, don't know if EMI has reissued it on the Virgin Classical label). It's good but very small size (not exactly OVPP but nearly so).

Sybrand Bakker wrote (February 14, 2002):
[To Simon Roberts] Wasn't that the SMP performed in Utrecht last year? In that case, I shouldn't put my hopes too high. He ignored the distribution of singers as indicated by the parts on many counts, such that it sounded like an almost two-anda-half SMP. He just took that tidbits of information that suited him, and ignored others.

Sybrand Bakker wrote (February 14, 2002):
[To John Thomas] Actually I'm quite sure (given the recording methods of DHM in the 60s and 70s) the Domsingknaben have been recorded in a very reverberant church. Maybe he just dislikes to actually hear the polyphony involved.

With Cantus Cölln as a reference, of the 2 other recordings I have only Herreweghe remains acceptable. I stopped listening to the recording of the Dutch Chamber Choir. (I'm not going to mention the conductor as not to provide ammunition to the Charles Francis entity)

 

Order of Discussion – List No. 14 / Motets

Mattehe Neugebauer wrote (July 8, 2002):
I've already asked Braatz this, and I know they aren't cantatas, but I would really like to read a comparison of motet performances-any one of the six is fine, and any section from an extended motet is good.

I have the Tafelmusik recording if you want me to send a track or two to you via e-mail.

Arjen van Gijssel wrote (July 8, 2002):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] I do not have a worked-out comparison, but let me pass my preferences. I have Herreweghe, Koopman and Corboz (ensemble vocal de Lausanne; on Kruidvat). Perhaps surprisingly, I definitively prefer Kruidvat. The Lausanne ensemble is more rythtmic, dynamic, precise and what the French describe "gai" in all the motets, especially in "Singet dem Herrn" and "Fürchte dich nicht". The motets are all standard repertoire for me as tenor in the Laurenscantorij, Rotterdam, NL (see www.laurenscantorij.nl for a short intro on Der Geist, where funny enough Bas Ramselaar suddenly appeared at our dress rehearsal; you can clearly detect his powerfull voice in the bass section).

I listen to Koopman as a warning against lazy singing (very inprecise on text and end-nouns), Herreweghe against sometimes too clean and dry singing, and ensemble de Lausanne for becoming really inspired. I have the honnour of singing "Jesu meine Freude" myself in the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, October 2002.

Mattehe Neugebauer wrote (July 10, 2002):
I've bugged a few people about this, but I seen to have gotten no response.

I know they aren't cantatas, but the motets have a very similar idea to the cantatas: choral works of religious nature. It would be a bit trying on my patience if I had to wait for all the cantatas to be discussed before we can get to the motets (BWV 225-230), so perhaps we could slip one in here and there?

As I said, the motets are similar to the cantatas, especially the chorale cantatas, and I believe it would be justified to talk about them in a similar, if not the same breath.

A secondary motive for me is that I have the Tafelmusik recording of the motets, and I would like to see how my home-town HIP ensemble stacks up against the big boys of Europe. (btw, I can rip a track or two off the CD and e-mail it to anyone who would do performance comparisons.)

Michael Grover wrote (July 10, 2002):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] You can bring up topics for discussion any time. Just talk away and you'll probably get some responses. Another place you might try this topic is the Bach Recordings Mailing List on yahoo, which you ought to join if you haven't already. I think most of the members of the BCML are also on the BRML and vice versa.

Aryeh Oron wrote (July 10, 2002):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] The master-plan is to start discussing in depth the other vocal works, including the Motets, when the first round of the weekly cantata discussions is over, at the end of 2003.

I do not mind members discussing the other vocal works in the BCML or the BRML. Most of the other vocal works have already been discussued (in various levels) as you can see in the Indes to Recordings & Discussions of J.S. Bach's Other Vocal Works: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/index.htm

Personally, I cannot participate in such discussions because the weekly cantata discussions (listening & writing) take most of my free time and not much time is left for other works. And, of course, I would like to see more silent members participating in the cantata discussions.

 

Motet: Jesu meine Freude

Gerald Gray wrote (July 18, 2002):
I was wondering what the consensus is on the best recording(s) of the Bach motets? Specifically Jesu meine Freude. I am conducting the piece and would like some fresh ideas. Thanks.

Ruben Valenzuela wrote (July 18, 2002):
[To Gerald Gray] Phillipe Herreweghe!

Gerald Gray wrote (July 18, 2002):
[To Ruben Valenzuela] I should have mentioned that the one recording I own is the Herreweghe. I like Herreweghe's work in general but in the case of the Motets, I don't think his choice of a quartet of singers for Jesu meine Freude was a great idea. (Even though I have worked with the tenor Howard Crook and love his singing).

Andrew Lewis wrote (July 18, 2002):
[To Gerald Gray] I love Harnoncourt's version with the Swedish Bach Choir. I'm not completely certain of the group's name, though I am certain that it's a Swedish ensemble.

I generally like Harnoncourt's cantata recordings. If you don't, you may still be interested in this recording of the motets. Quite different in several respects, for obvious reasons (adult choir). I either own or have heard all of the major releases from the last twenty years and I keep coming back to Harnoncourt's because, though sometimes the singing may not be all that suave, it is full of energy, is faithful to the text, has contrapuntal clarity, and I think Harnoncourt always observes the "physical" element of Bach's music: gesture/dance (even though, at times, he disregards diacritical marks that are supposed to be Bach's).

Philip Peters wrote (July 19, 2002):
Junghänel with Cantus Cölln. A revelatory recording.

Charles Francis wrote (July 19, 2002):
[To Philip Peters] To my knowledge, only one recording is better: Amazon.com
the recording that proves kids really can sing well! Available from Amazon Germany for 7 Euro.

Uri Golomb wrote (July 19, 2002):
[To Andrew Lewis] In response to Andrew's note: the choir in Harnoncourt's recording is called the BachChor Stockholm. The actual conducting was probably done by the choir's director, Anders Oehrwall (Harnoncourt was playing cello, as he does in many of the cantatas), but I think Harnoncourt fans and detractors alike will agree that the interpretation could only have come from Harnoncourt, who is named -- as in the cantatas -- as responsible for "Gesamtleitung".

Personally, I love these recordings of the Motets. They are extremely dramatic and very strongly projected, with powerful contrasts yet also with much subtelty of detail. Generally, I tend to prefer Harnoncourt's worwith mixed choirs (this Motets recording, his second B minor Mass, his later Passions recording -- especially the ST. Matthew) to his work with boys choirs in many of the cantatas. (I also find his later recordings, in general, more convincing than his earlier ones -- but I know that some members have the opposite view). In any case, I fully share Andrew's characterisation of these recordings, and believe that anyone interested in the motets should at least give them a hearing.

I probably should have contributed something to the recent discussion of B minor Mass recordings, as I've listened to almost all recordings of that work in the past few years, as part of my doctoral research. For the moment, however, I just want to mention three favourite recoridngs which were not mentioned by previous correspondents. The first one (or rather two) are the recordings by Eugen Jochum. His second, EMI recording is actually my favourite "modern instruments" recording of the Mass (yes, even ahead of Richter: I love many of Richter's other BAch recordings, but I have never warmed to his studio B minor Mass; I actually prefer the freer, more moving -- in several senses -- live 1969 recording, but that has several imperfections which are likely to annoy most listeners on repeated hearings). Anyway, back to Jochum: I find his B minor Mass, generally speaking, warmer and more moving than most other "modern" recordings; and given teh type of forces he used, he achieved quite remarkable clarity. There are fine moments in both of his recordings, but I ultimately prefer his EMI version, mainly because the choral singing is more clear and secure.

Then there are two HIP recordings. Richard Hickox is not a conductor who's done a lot of BAch on record, but I really love his B minor Mass (on Chandos, with Collegium Musicum '90 -- mistakenly described on the Bach Cantata website as being OVPP). As I try to describe its virtues, the words that come into my mind smack of "damning with faint praise" -- it's one of those recordings that can be described as "safe" recommendation, avoiding obtrusive mannerisms. But there is more to it than that, I believe. I feel that Hickox is almost always succesful at striking the right balance, providing a nuanced interpretation that doesn't draw much attention to his own contribution, yet not descending into under-interpretation (that's my view; at any rate; I know some critics have accused Hickox of this very fault). Polyphonic lines are usually clear; orchestra and chorus are placed more-or-less on an equal footing (this has led some reviewers to criticse the recording for placing the orchestra too forward -- I can see their point of view, but I don't share it). Also, Hickox is great at generating a subtle sense of momentum -- it's not an obvious "strive for climax", but rather a more subtle, natural-seeming way of delineating a movement's structure, in a way which is both dramatically and architecturally satisfying.

Most of this cannot be said of Thomas Hengelbrock's performance on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi. This is a strongly interventionist performance, and Hengelbrock definitely does draw attention to his own views and perspectives on the Mass. His tempi tends towards extremes (ranging from one of the slowest First Kyries on record to some of the fastest renditions of the "trumpet" choruses), and he carefully shapes and moulds his phrases, with much tinkering with dynamics, especially. It is obvious that much thought has gone into all of this, and the results are bound to be, at the very least, thought provoking. I cannot call this a "safe" recommendation -- many listeners, I'm sure, will find it mannered and over-personalised. However, I find it one of the most moving and challenging recordings of this work, and would strongly recommend that lovers of the Mass will at least give it a hearing.

Also, there's a good article on recordings of the Mass (by Bernard Sherman, the editor of Inside Early Music , among other things) on: http://homepages.kdsi.net/~sherman/bminormass.htm

Ludwig wrote (July 19, 2002):
[To Ruben Valenzuela] My current personal preference is for the Stuttgart Chamber Choir and Baroque Orchestra performances.

The motets are sparingly orchestrated and from my point of view should showcase the vocal parts.

In my own conducting experience for all of the Choral works of Bach including the Motets --my general rules are to limit the chorus to 16 members--usually 4 each of STAB and if I can get them ---use boys for the Soprano and Alto parts, do NOT use Contrabasse to double the Celli (to me the parts sound mudded and lugubrious when a Contrabasse is used), keep the Orchestra (unless otherwise called for) to 8 violins 4 Violas (occaisionally they will have to double on the Viola d'amoure and if not then I may have to look elsewhere), 2 Celli (Gambas if I can get them).

The Wind section consists of Organ, 2-4 oboes (according to the needs of the score and again some may have to double duty on Oboe d'amour), 2 blockflotes (or regular flutes if need be), 1 bassoon.

Brass when called for up to 6 Trumpets, 2 French Horns (natural prefered and rarely called for), 1 Trombone(almost never called for) and one tympanist.

For continuo parts--I follow Harnoncourt's practice of limiting this to Organ, Bassson, Cello and never use harpsichord unless there is no other choice.

In performance, I encourage ornamentation of the score but only moderately so and never, never do the things I have heard some Romantically inclined folks do such as building things up to a big romantic climax with the big let down of a fugue following.

 

Motets and More and Really Not Much

Sw Anandgyan wrote (September 18, 2003):
Finally the day has come where I can say I have everything Bach-related recorded by Philippe Herreweghe and I'm blaming you ;-)

I acknowledge I'm a " completist " and this is one reason I'm staying away from the Cantatas cycle by Masaaki Suzuki or those of Helmut Rilling and it is my loss and there are exceptions to that inclination of mine.

Since I'm a newcomer to JSB, I've opted to funny guidelines as critics from well-known magazines and the reputation of a record label such as Harmonia Mundi and Archiv Produktion. Meanwhile my ears are being trained. Some sets are more easily completed as the one with Christophe Coin, or René Jacobs conducting on HM ... I would like a comment or two on his rendition of the MBM for I haven't seen it available in Montreal.

For the connoisseur, you ought not read further for this is just me feeling good about being with others who have more than two versions of the same oeuvre.

Is it because of their length ? I have found it easier to immerse myself in the MBM (BWV 232), the CO and now the Motets. My intentions are good about the SMP, yet I have difficulties falling in love with it but will give it the more needed time. Meanwhile nowadays it is the Motets that enhance the atmosphere in my flat.

After purchasing the Harnoncourt recording, thanks to Uri Golomb (I'm a fan of his writings, he's my just-divulged mentor) and the Diego Fasolis one, now my latest acquisition is the CD from Matthias Jung and the Sächsisches Vocalensemble on the Tacet label because it had that sticker that said '2002 Cannes Classical Recording Winner' and that was enough for me to " take a chance " ... It's gorgeous.

J.S. BACH: Motetten BWV 225-229; Sächsisches Vocalensemble, Matthias Jung. Tacet 108

It ought to find its niche in the tremendously helpful Bach Cantatas Website.

Since I come from the progressive rock backgrgound, I may be the rare one to direct you towards a recording of the GV here: http://www.sofasound.com/assochb.htm

Thanks to you all and I look forward to the Cantus Cölln's Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) and the members' remarks.

Back in lurking mode,

PhiPeters wrote (September 18, 2003):
[To Sw Anandgyan] I would like to recommend with much emphasis the revelatory recording by Konrad Junghänel and Cantus Cölln. I regard this as the single best recording of the motets (OVVP).

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (September 18, 2003):
[To Sw Anandgyan] May I make a (personal) suggestion since you state that you are new to Bach?

My suggestion is this: be wary of what you buy and listen to. In many cases (such as the Harnoncourt Matthaeuspassion and others) there are tendencies towards modern ideals than letting the music speak for itself.

While I have not owned anything by either Herreweghe or Harnoncourt, I have listened to extracts (the ones that usually are provided on the Internet shopping sites) of both of their interpretations of the above-mentioned Matthaeuspassion. While they might be good for people who like their styles, the recordings leave some things to be desired in as far as the music goes.

I would say this: first (if possible), get a score (there are links to almost every Vocal work of Bach (in the Bach-Gesellschaft edition) on the Bach Cantatas Web Page [only BWV 199, BWV 200, and BWV 224 are missing]). Then get a recording that you want to listen to and do some comparisons.

For example, listen to the above-mentioned recordings of the Matthaeuspassion and compare it to the score. I think you will find that the aforementioned conductors take the 1st movement especially a tad too fast. Instead of mourning, they treat it as a Jig. The same goes for most of the other conductors that have recorded this work (I don't know about Leonhardt's interpretation, I have not heard it). The exceptions I find to be Karl Richter's recordings (especially the 2nd), Herbert von Karajan's recordings, and the recordings with Eberhard and Rudolf Mauersberger conducting the Thomanerchor and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. Even Ramin takes it a tad too fast. There is no problem with the interpretations of the last movement (all the recordings I have heard treat it with the gravity and solemnity it deserves), but for some reason (I don't know why) they all insist on treating the first movement as if it were for a gay dance instead of for a dirge, let alone for an introduction to the most serious and solemn occasion-the Death of the Savior for the sins of the world.

Therefore, especially if you are looking to invest in recordings of the Matthaeuspassion, I would suggest the recording of the Matthaeuspassion conducted by Heinz Henning (especially since it is the only one of the 1st Version of the Matthaeuspassion) and then go from your choice of the ones I suggested in the above paragraph. After that, the choice is yours, but I feel that as an introduction to Bach's music one should go for recordings that treat the music faithfully, and then compare it to otherr recordings. Amazon.de.com has a lot of recordings of Bach works that I would recommend for you. In particular, they have nearly the complete set available of the series "Bach: Made in Germany" which I would highly recommend to you. It exposes you to the styles of many different conductors associated in one form or another with the city and/or the facility where Bach was employed for the last 27 years of his life-the Thomaskirche zu Leipzig. The first 4 volumes of the series have recordings of the Thomanerchor and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig under the direction of 4 of the greatest Kantors of the Thomaskirche in the last century (in volume order): Guenther Ramin (who is recorded conducting various Kantaten and the Johannespassion, as well as plying the Tokkate d-Moll BWV 565, the Praeludium (Tokkate) und Fuge F-Dur BWV 540 and the earlier and later versions of the Praeludium und Fuge C-Dur BWV 545 on one of the Thomanerorgeln), Kurt Thomas (who is recorded conducting various Kantaten and the Weinachtsoratorium), Eberhard and Rudolf Mauersberger (who are recorded conducting various Kantaten and the Matthaeuspassion), and Hans-Joachim Rotzsch (who is recorded conducting various Kantaten). Volume V is a series of recordings under the direction of Ludwig Güttler and usually featuring the Virtuosi Saxoniae. Volume VI is a series of recordings featuring the various people that held the post of Organist in the Thomaskirche zu Leipzig performing (I think) nearly all of Bach's organ works. Volume VII features recordings under the direction of Peter Schreier and mostly consist of recdordings of the Weltiche Kantaten and some other works. Volume VIII (the last in the series) features various Orchestern recording the Orchestral works of Bach.

Other recordings I would recommend are the series of Kantaten, the Weinachtsoratorium, and Orchesterwerke recorded by the late Karl Richter, the Goodman recording of the Markuspassion, the Rilling recording of the Johannespassion (the earlier 3-CD one) and the Weinachtsoratorium (the earlier one with the Harpsichord in the Continuo), the Helbich recording of the Lukaspassion, and on the instrumental side, the recordings of Wolfgang Stockmeier (the Complete Organ Works), the CD (I don't remember the Artist performing it) called "The Complete Organ and Other Keyboard Works", The Phillips Lable's recordings of the Violin Sonatats and Partitats, the Flute Sonatas and Gamba Sonatas, the Violin Sonatas (with Harpsichord and with Basso Continuo), Hans Kirchoff's recording of the complete Lute works, Gustav Leonhardt's recordings of the Klavierkonzerte, the Musikalisches Opfer, and the Die Kunst der Fuge, the Edition Bachakademie recordings of the Kanonen and the various works recently discovered (BWV 1081-1120) and the Anhang wroks, and the Goebbel recording of the Orchesterouvertueren (the only recording I know of that also includes the g-Moll Orchesterouvertuere BWV 1070).

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (September 18, 2003):
[To Sw Anandgyan] I found the other recording. Unfortunately it is not yet available again on Yahoo Shopping, but the performer is Bernard Lagacé and the album is entitled "Complete Organ and Other Keyboard Works".

Sw Anandgyan wrote (September 19, 2003):
< David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote: May I make a (personal) suggestion since you state that you are new to Bach?

My suggestion is this: be wary of what you buy and listen to. In many cases (such as the Harnoncourt Matthaeuspassion and others) there are tendencies towards modern ideals than letting the music speak for itself.

While I have not owned anything by either Herreweghe or Harnoncourt, I have listened to extracts (the ones that usually are provided on the Internet shopping sites) of both of their interpretations of the above-mentioned Matthaeuspassion. While they might be good for people who like their styles, the recordings leave some things to be
desired in as far as the music goes.

I would say this: first (if possible), get a score (there are links to almost every Vocal work of Bach (in the Bach-Gesellschaft edition) on the Bach Cantatas Web Page [only BWV 199, 200, and 224 are missing]). Then get a recording that you want to listen to and do some comparisons. >
Thank you for your suggestion. I can listen to any album in a store and I must admit that having a score in front of me is close to useless for I don't read music, I simply enjoy it.

About the SMP, I have Harnoncourt III, Herreweghe I & II, McCreesh, Brüggen and Richter I and that is enough options, some were prized for what it's worth, for me to get my teeth into ... Yes critics don't always share the same opinion and it ought to be that way. The Bach Cantatas Website has been a mainstay for my research as a neophyte. I have the budget priced Complete Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin by Arthur Grumiaux and The Cello Suites by Heinrich Schiff thanks to some Grammophon's recommendation. I have seen albums with Karl Richter playing Bach on the organ on the Eloquence budget reissue label; would that be a good place to have an introduction to JSB's music on his first instrument, so to speak, ?

think I've been spoiling myself and do not really have one lousy CD. Did I admit I wanted to show off ? Granted it's no use to have a racing car in the city and be subjected to speed limits, but that is how it is turning out here even though much is going over my head, I take notice of what is being said.

Thank you once more for such a passionate answer.

 

Motets BWV 225-230

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 18, 2004):
<< Have you heard the Fasolis recording of the Motets? The Motets have always seemed rather dull to me (in comparison to his other vocal works, that is), but this recording has helped me appreciate them more. >>
< I would recommend Cantus Cölln (Junghänel), a truly revelatory recording. >
I haven't heard these yet, thanks for the recommendations. With several other recordings of them here, I still don't listen to these pieces very often. And when I do, they seem bland: we sang some of these with approximately 2VPP in grad school, under an especially dynamic conductor, where we worked on them twice a week for an entire semester. What we lacked in vocal polish and blend, we compensated in carefully sculpted nuances in every line: they're pretty amazing pieces in the richness of detail they can offer. By comparison with those memories, these pieces sound pretty dull and superficial on records. How are Junghänel and Fasolis on such a level of ecstatic detail?

Philip Peters wrote (March 19, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] Junghänel's is OVVP and is much more convincing than his SMP. It's an interpretation of great clarity and loving attention to detail while the structure is always recognizable. I wasn't very fond of the motets until I heard this recording (and I have quite some more), this is one you really can;t do without IMHO.

 

BWV 227

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 21, 2006):
The following citation is from liner notes by Peter Dennison to London vinyl LP, J. S. Bach Motets, Vol. II, c. 1971, Decca Record Co.

"Jesu Meine Freude (BWV 227) is at once the most intimately expressive and the most symmetrically constructed of all the Bach motets. In five parts, it was written for the funeral of Frau Kee, the wife of a Leipzig official, in July 1723 and consists of a set of variations on the chorale alternating with free choruses to texts from the eighth chapter of Romans. The underlying idea is the opposition of the flesh and the spirit, and the whole motet revolves around a centerpiece expressing this, the fugue ihr aber nicht fleischlich sondern geistlich. The extent of the symmetry can best be illustrated thus:

1. Four-part harmonization of the chorale.
2. Five-part free chorus with homophonic and fugal sections.
3. Five-part chorale with agitated underparts.
4. Short three-part free chorus SSA.
5. Five-part free variation of the chorale.
6. Five-part fugue. Free chorus.
7. Four-part chorale with agitated underparts.
8. Short three-part free chorus ATB.
9. Four-part SSAT chorale variations with chorale in the alto.
10. Five-part free chorus with homophonic and fugal sections.
11. Four-part harmonization of the chorale.

"Numbers 1 and 11 are the same setting of the chorale; 2 and 10 use the same homophonic and fugal material but develop it differently; 4 and 8 are both short and both in three parts. This same symmetrical structure occurs in the SJP of the same year, where the central part of the work pivots on the chorale Durch dein Gefangnis, Gottes Sohn.

"The two moods which are contrasted throughout this motet, bold assertiveness and personal intimacy, are both contained in the centerpiece, No. 6. The fugue reminds believers that they are not of the Flesh but of the Spirit; it is followed by a smoother homophonic passage, Wer aber Christi Geist nicht hat, 'He who has not the Spirit is not of Christ', expressing a warm and intimate concern.

The stimulus to write now is a performance of BWV 227 yesterday (Mar. 19) by the Cantata Singers (& Ensemble), on a program which also included the premier of a new commission by John Harbison. Program notes to the Bach, written by Music Director David Hoose, can be accessed at http://www.cantatasingers.org/concerts05-06.html. John Harbison also gave thoughts and music examples pre-concert, which IMO are consistent with the Dennison notes cited. A review of the concert by Richard Dyer (largely devoted to the Harbison premier, "But Mary Stood") was published in the Boston Globe today, and may be (or not?) accessible at www.boston.com. If you are interested and can't get it, ask me. References and links to Cantata Singers and harbison on BCW.

I hope to provide some more detailed comments on the Bach performance, but I want to post this early, in order to reference:

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 7, 2005):
< There are many interesting details from Hofmann's book which I have not been able to relate here. Perhaps some other occasion or question will warrant going into these details as well. >
The question is, does Hofmann support, contradict, or otherwise relate to Dennison's liner notes, which strike me as very much in agreement with what I hear?

I would also enjoy thoughts on Wolff (B:LM, p. 249), which I read as treating BWV 227 as primarily an instructional piece (not to say an exercise for schoolboys). Am I misreading Woolf? I don't think I am misreading BWV 227, a masterpiece of both music and architecture (if you can tolerate the arch (nave), one more time). However, and whenever Bach (certainly NOT a posthumous collage, or whatever) created it.

The Canta Singers program also included the Schutz "Sacred Symphony" (SWV417), Komm, heiliger Geist (Come, Holy Ghost!). Indeed.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 21, 2006):
BWV 227 (more)

Doug Cowling wrote (June 6, 2005):
< I guess I'm one of people who think it one of Bach's finest unified works. The alternation of metrical chorale-text as choral-partita with scriptural prose dictum as free motet without chorale is a breathtaking literary structure. Then there is the question of the mirror imagery of the eleven movements of the motet spread out on either side of the central No. 6 "Ihr seid". Bach does the same in the "Credo" and the "Magnificat". If it was a compilation, then the final shape is a masterpiece. I would place "Jesu Meine Freude" in the Top Ten of all of Bach's works! >
In order not to be repetitious, I did not cite this post. In the interest of being thorough, perhaps I should. Everyone, pleas note (again) this concise and eloquent statement of some the views contained in my earlier post. Needless to say (I hope), I concur, and found the entire BCW discussion added to my enjoyment of the concert, and listening again, with fresh ears, to recordings from my stash.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 21, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>>"Jesu Meine Freude (BWV 227) is at once the most intimately expressive and the most symmetrically constructed of all the Bach motets. In five parts, it was written for the funeral of Frau Kee, the wife of a Leipzig official, in July 1723....
The question is, does Hofmann support, contradict, or otherwise relate to Dennison's liner notes, which strike me as very much in agreement with what I hear?
I would also enjoy thoughts on Woolf (B:LM, p. 249),which I read as treating BWV 227 as primarily an instructional piece (not to say an exercise for schoolboys). Am I misreading Woolf?<<

Here are some important points based upon Klaus Hofmann's book on Bach's motets (Bärenreiter, 2003) in particular relating to BWV 227:

1. Christoph Wolff is simply repeating a now outdated theory at first advanced as fact by Johann Nikolaus Forkel (1802 biography on Bach). In all this time no evidence has turned up to prove that Bach composed the motets primarily for exercises/practice for the Thomaner under his direction. The most recent evidence, as scanty as it is, points to the motets as specific, event-based compositions. Forkel possibly relied upon reports given by subsequent cantors at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, reports whichrepresented a significant change in performance practices and utilization of motets (in place of a cantata, without any accompanying instruments, etc.), practices now known not to represent what Bach would have done. Forkel assumed that such performance practices and the purpose for which the music was used continued in an unchanging tradition from Bach's time to when Forkel wrote this biography.

2. Not a single note of BWV 227 is in Bach's hand or formed part of the original set of parts which Bach may have supervised and corrected.

3. The date of composition could be either 1723 or 1735 or any time between these two dates.

4. Bernhard Friedrich Richter (1912) concluded from his research that this motet, BWV 227, was composed for the funeral service for Johanna Maria Kees [this last name means 'cheese' {Käs}] who died on June 29 and was buried on July 2, 1723 in Leipzig. The funeral service at which the motet could have been sung was on July 18, 1723. This was accepted as a fact for more than 60 years until doubts began cropping up: Martin Petzoldt, in publications from 1982 and 1985, reported that the order of services for the Kees funeral had been located, but that BWV 227 does not appear to have been sung there at all. What about the actual burial on July 2, 1723? Also not possible since there is a specific request for the burial on that day to be carried out in silence (no muic!) Petzoldt then surmised that it might have been performed before the house of the deceased or before the actual burial ceremony began.

Both Werner Breig (1988) and Alfred Dürr (1986) have observed the following:

a. parts of the compositions are much too advanced in style to have been composed in 1723 or even before

b. Bach uses different variants of the chorale melody "Jesu, meine Freude", distinctly pointing to the possibility that Bach composed BWV 227 in stages represented by the variants on the melody form of the chorale.

Hofmann believes that Bach scholarship is making a big mistake by stubbornly holding onto the Kees connection. For instance, Bach may have composed this motet for an occasion outside of Leipzig. This might explain the lack of double chorus and orchestral accompaniment.

5. There is no doubt that Bach imposed a finely crafted symmetrical plan on the mvts. he assembled. Much thought was given to providing balance and unity. The discussion of this work's symmetry began with Friedrich Smend (1928) and continues to be dissected and marveled at even today. The details are too numerous to be given here.

 

Motets with instruments

Neil Halliday wrote (January 6, 2011):
Heard on the radio today, the motet Singet dem Herrn BWV 225, in a marvellously rich, vital and accurate performance by The Bach Sinfonia, with colourful doubling instruments, conducted by the American musician Daniel Abraham.

The instruments - woodwind and strings, expertly played - certainly bring an attractive complementary timbre to the rich choral texture.

Here is his biography at the BCW: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Abraham-Daniel.htm

 

Motets BWV 225-231: Details
Recordings: 1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Systematic Discussions: BWV 225 | BWV 226 | BWV 227 | BWV 228 | BWV 229 | BWV 230 | BWV 231 | BWV 225-231 - Summary
Individual Recordings:
Motets - K. Junghänel & Cantus Cölln | Motets - E. Ericson | Motets - D. Fasolis | Motets - N. Harnoncourt | Motets - R. Kammler

Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127

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Last update: ýJanuary 22, 2011 ý16:51:53