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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

Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248

Performed by Collegium Aureum

V-1

J.S. Bach: Weihnachts-Oratorium

Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248/1-6

Gerhard Schmidt-Gaden / Franzjosef Maier

Tölzer Knabenchor / Collegium Aureum

Tenor [Evangelist & Arias]: Theo Altmeyer; Treble: Hans Buchhierl (Soloist from Tölzer Knabenchor); Boy Alto: Andreas Stein (Soloist from Tölzer Knabenchor); Baritone: Barry McDaniel

Deutsche Harmonia Mundi

1973

3-CD / TT: ~ 163:00

Buy this album at: Amazon.com

Collegium Aureum XO, general remarks

Tom Dent wrote (December 3, 2006):
This recording has not had much attention, despite having some interesting features. I have an original LP set and it gives quite a lot of data on the performers and instruments.

First some general remarks. When I get round to it I hope to review each cantata separately.

The vocal forces (Toelzer Knabenchor) are all-male, with boy soprano and alto. The Collegium Aureum are claimed to be 'original instrument' performers. However, they are more accurately described as using a blend of 'historical' and mid-20th century equipment and techniques. For example, the cello or double bass use vibrato on sustained notes in recitative. The string instruments are claimed to be mainly 17th and 18th century Italian with 'kurzer Mensur' presumably meaning shorter fingerboard, string in gut and played with 'light bow' (which in the accompanying photos is the now familiar bow with pointed end). However, the string tone, while pleasant, is not very much different from many other modern chamber orchestras. Notable exceptions to 20th-century sound occur in the use of: oboes d'amore from Eichentopf, 1720, loaned directly from the Brussels Instrument Museum; oboes copied from German models of the early 18th century; and flutes from around 1750 played mostly senza vibrato.

The booklet includes an essay on 'Bach's Musical "Rhetoric" and Its Consequence for the Performance of His Oratorios' by one Wolfgang Werner, a subject familiar to list members. The actual content dealing with the consequences for performance is rather slim. There is the introduction of the 'rules of articulation', which supposedly had been ignored by previous vocal soloists and choirs who 'persisted in a flowing way of singing that ignored the rhythmical and dynamical weight of the text'.

The singers in this recording are claimed to have 'attached such importance to the text that now the stressed and unstressed syllables form a musical articulation that gives each work a certain structure and a new liveliness'. The example is given of 'dir sei Lob und Dank bereit' (emphases given in italics) - 'the syllables of which are differently weighty and thus sung differently loud'. The portentous conclusion is that 'a vocal style that does not base upon a distinct articulation is bound to fail'.

Werner does not, though, take account of the difference between dynamic and agogic accents - the former being a variation of loudness, the latter a variation of length between different notes. Let alone the possiblity of dynamic variation within a single note. So the essay scarcely gives us a clear idea of what might be a more or less appropriate way of 'articulating'.

Werner, curiously, also brings in Bach's supposed penchant for 'speculating with numbers' and says that the trio 'Ach! wann wird die Zeit...' is 'mathematically arranged in some mysterious way'. What relevance such inaudible considerations might have to vocal performance is not explained.

Enough of this. A few more facts on the recording.

The soloists and conductor are already known on the BC webpage. The leader of the Collegium Aureum is, as usual, Franzjosef Maier. The flute players include Barthold Kuijken and the first oboist is Bruce Haynes. None of the other names are known to me except the violist Franz Beyer, who may be the Beyer who reworked the Mozart Requiem.

There are 7 violins, 2 violas, 3 cello and 2 double bass. Continuo is provided by a modern 'Orgelpositiv' (small portable organ).

Pitch is a semitone below modern 'concert A', which is claimed to be the 'low Kammerton of Bach's Leipzig years'.

Other instruments include 3 'Clarintrompeten in Hornform' made in 1972; kettledrums from about 1750; above-mentioned flutes and oboes; 1 bassoon from Dresden 1780.

The recording was made in an attractive Baroque parish church in Lenggries, wherever that might be, with an apparently authentic Christmas temperature, judging by the number of scarves and sweaters among the performers. The technical sound quality is, I would say, average for choral recordings of the mid-70's: perfectly adequate to hear what is being sung or played, but no great sense of perspective or space around the performers. The LP pressing has slightly congested high frequencies - the CD may be different.

I remember someone saying this recording was nearly unique among Christmas Oratorios, in aurally suggesting the actual performance circumstances of Bach's cantatas (boys choir, parish church ...) - which seems a reasonable overall remark, but hides a wide variety of success, or lack of it, between different parts of the recording.

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 3, 2006):
Tom Dent wrote:
< This recording has not had much attention, despite having some interesting features. I have an original LP set and it gives quite a lot of data on the performers and instruments.
First some general remarks. When I get round to it I hope to review each cantata separately. >
I have the comparable Harnoncourt set, on Telefunken. Although it is from 1973, it is a recent acquisition for me, and I have not yet listened to it completely. Give me a little advance notice when you get to the reviews, and we can compare notes. In truth, I bought this set for short money, as much for the pocket scores included, as for the records--a real plus with the H&L LPs.

Do not overlook my standing offer, BCML participants. Send your dead LPs to me for proper and respectful burial services.

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 3, 2006):
OT [was Collegium Aureum XO, general remarks]

A brief summary of an earlier exchange:
Tom Dent wrote:
<< This recording has not had much attention,\ >>
EM:
< I have the comparable Harnoncourt set [...] when you get to the reviews [...] we can compare notes. >
And when when we do that, we can share a few drops of Martell XO, unquestionably IMO the finest Cognac casg can buy What a coincidence!

Out of consideration for remaining liver capacity, I normally restrict my modest intake to undistilled beverages, but for this special event I will make an exception. Let the planning begin. If we do this properly, perhaps we can enlist Martell to provide the XO in exchange for a bit of good publicity?.

Tom Dent wrote (December 3, 2006):
[To Ed Myskowski] Since it's Advent already, I oughtta be doing my review of 'Part I' immediately. But with my usual organization, turns out I've only got Part 3 done.

As to comparing notes, I can tell you right now - Collegium Aureum is faster than Harnoncourt - but not as fast as Christophers. (I have the CDs of the Concentus Musicus version, spreads over three of them.)

But how do I get the cognac? (and at what price?) Though personally, I prefer grappa or whisky.

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 4, 2006):
Tom Dent wrote:
< But how do I get the cognac? (and at what price?) Though personally, I prefer grappa or whisky. >
Aye, matey, there's the rub! And perhaps a good lesson to discuss in public.

Part 1. the question is not how I get the cognac, but how we get the cognac, thXO cognac.

Part II. if the cognac, the Martell XO, is courtesy of the maker, that is the beverage you prefer.

Otherwise, you can buy your own at about US$100 the bottle.

I am not optimistic, but it is not impossible! On the face of it, I perceive a very common attitude: if you provide the booze, I will drink it. Nothing wrong with that, except that I said it first.

Julian Mincham wrote (December 4, 2006):
Speed is of the essence!

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I am not optimistic, but it is not impossible! On the face of it, I perceive a very common attitude: if you provide the booze, I will drink it. Nothing wrong with that, except that I said it first. >
It's not a matter of who said it first but of who gets to it first. Speed, agility and a steady hand are all of primary importance in this respect.

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 4, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Speed, agility and a steady hand are all of primary importance in this respect .>
Not to worry about the steady hand, just put a bit extra in the glass to cover spillage.

I actually thought the Martell XO was not a bad idea, in addition to the humor. Apparently, Dent missed it. Put it aside and maybe we can pick it up another time.

You will really appreciate this: my heritage is only half Polish, the other half French. Martell. I see free cognac, just waiting for us to ask!

No word yet from the old man, but not to worry.

Braatzian brevity is a keeper! I am up and about on the early side, it is snowing, and I have no particular place to go, so look for some good stuff re the score samples later in the day.

 

XO Collegium Aureum, 1st Part

Tom Dent wrote (December 7, 2006):
1. Chorus 'Jauchzet'.
Tempo seems to me perfect, accomodating both pomp and circumstance, and onrushing energy in the smallest notes, which are almost all clearly audible and 'together'. Trills in the orchestra are, though, cut off midstream before their written-out termination, with a curious effect of being pulled up short. I wonder what theory led to this interpretation. Luckily, the chorus do not feel constrained to hiccup in the middle of their own trilled entries (which vocally would be very awkward) - instead using a discreet diminuendo towards the end of the note. But I am jumping ahead. The trumpets (or 'Clarini in Hornform') are grandly dominant when they enter: they tend towards being insistent, rather than polite, though never harsh. Choir entries are energetically accentuated, which seems to be what the relatively slow-moving vocal parts need. The only possible objection to the vocal contribution comes in the middle section, where every entry of 'Dienet den hoechsten' is provided with a strong accent and diminuendo - without, apparently, considering that the rest of the sentence might also be worth attention. (Or in fact any musical structure longer than a single bar...)

2. Recitative.
With few exceptions the recitatives are relative low points. The bass instrument is prone to vibrato and poor intonation, and the tenor generally sounds dutiful and placid, or alternatively dutiful and effortful (when the part enters the upper register). But you'll never guess what he does with 'Frohe Hirten'...

2a. Recit. accompagnato.
The first close-up for the oboes d'amore is satisfying: firm with steady intonation, they provide a suitably-coloured backdrop for the poetically phrased recitative. The alto seems not so well-prepared with some wobble and intonational doubt. But don't despair...

3. Aria. Alto with obbligato oboe-cum-violin.
After the warm-up, the alto suddenly improves vastly with a strong and steady tone, and well-judged accentuation and dynamic shaping. Towards the end of the middle section the voice has some fine expressive passages making good use of the text. The unique quality of the boy alto in the lower register gives the interplay of voice and obbligato line an unusual clarity. In the da capo the alto has some curious ornaments sliding up to the minor third of 'Bereite' and anticipating the syllable (before the beat). Although this is a recognised Baroque ornament, its use on a weak syllable seems unhappy, since it has the effect of an accent: 'Be-rei-te-e-e'. If there is anything to criticise in general it is the slightly cut-and-dried phrasing of the instrumental line which does not seem to have much shaping.

4. Chorale.
The chorales are the second relative low point of this performance. The enthusiasm for 'articulation' amounts to singing each note as a separate entity practically without musical connection to the notes preceding or following. Indeed, the individual 8th-note figures are effectively enough done, but very little links them together into phrases, let alone sentences. Even an untrained congregation might make more musical sense.

5. Recitative.
For once, the more tender reflective text suits the tenor's style of delivery and dark tone quality better.

6. Chorale arioso with obbligato oboes / Bass recitative.
Again, the oboes are very fine, now with a chance to demonstrate subtle articulation which manages to join notes together into larger stretches as well as separate them from each other. The sopranos, unfortunately, are just the opposite. 'Arioso' seems not to have conveyed any meaning, individual notes are produced and individually die off. Such 'articulated' singing actually reduces the musical contrast of the passage: the bass has slurred groups and the oboes isolated staccato notes, so it would be nice for the voices to sustain through a little. Tone quality and intonation are also occasionally sketchy. The Bass (credited as baritone) appears quite differently: a rich and flexible, rather dark voice, with some musically consequent phrasing, if not overly incited towards characterization of the text.

7. Aria. Bass with trumpet solo and strings.
Overall orchestral approach is firm & confident: as in the first chorus a combination of pomp and forward impetus. Trumpet is quite strong-toned and slightly rough in places - but not unpleasantly. I still have no idea what sort of instruments were used. The solo is generally finely, even sensitively sung; unlike many the singer has a good lower register. Again if there were to be one criticism it would be the accompanying string and continuo team who seem to go about it rather mechanically in the middle section.

8. Chorale with orchestra.
A slow and relatively gentle vocal approach, but still, so far as phrasing goes, crawling along note by note. Along with some rather blunt timpani strokes, this puts the piece well and truly to bed.

 

Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248: Details
Recordings: 1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019 | Individual Movements
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
Systematic Discussions:
Cantata 1 | Cantata 2 | Cantata 3 | Cantata 4 | Cantata 5 | Cantata 6 | Part 7: Summary
Individual Recordings:
BWV 248 - Collegium Aureum | BWV 248 - H. Christophers | BWV 248 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 248 - N. Harnoncourt | BWV 248 - R. Jacobs | BWV 248 - N. McGegan | BWV 248 - R. Otto | BWV 248 - K. Richter | BWV 248 - H. Rilling | BWV 248 - P. Schreier | BWV 248 - M. Suzuki | BWV 248 - K. Thomas | BWV 248 - J.v. Veldhoven
Articles:
A Bottomless Bucket of Bach - Christmas Oratorio [D. Satz] | BWV 248/19 “Schlafe, mein Liebster” - A Background Study with Focus on the Colla Parte Flauto Traverso Part [T. Braatz]

Collegium Aureum: Recordings | Short History | BWV 248 - Collegium Aureum

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: ýDecember 10, 2006 ý18:01:50