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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
General Discussions - Part 1

Christmas Oratorio

Laurent Planchon wrote (May 12, 1998):
Irit Schoenhorn writes:
< Thanks for giving Harnoncourt his credits. >
And many credits indeed he deserves. During the last days (or should I say nights), I have been listening to some of my old LP's (not so old actually since they date from the 80s), and I found the coffee cantata (BWV 211, Equiluz and Von Egmond, with Harnoncourt conducting), and I was amazed to see how Harnoncourt in 1968 got it so right immediatly. I mean, you would tend to think that this was some kind of research and pioneering work, prone to a lot of errors, and already proven wrong by many more recent realizations, but it is actually not. This is just as good and as modern now as it was 30 (thirty) years ago, and it still ranks among the best recordings of this cantata. And this is not an isolated case, look at his St Matthew (1971) (BWV 244), his Christmas Oratorio (1974) (BWV 248), the first volumes of the cantatas project and so on and so forth.

You could probably argue that authentic instruments are probably more mastered today than they were before, than baroque orchestras are technically more professional now, and that nobody uses boys choir anymore (even H. himself), but still, apart from that, what did we get more in 30 years? Not much as far as I am concerned. Gardiner said in an interview some time ago that Harnoncourt has always been 10 years ahead of his peers, and there is no doubt in my mind about that.

< One should read his books!! >
Amen to that. Very interesting stuff, and a lot to think about the HIP movement, its purpose and so on, from Harnoncourt's perspective of course. For those of you who believe that Harnoncourt is a very dogmatic authenthist (I am not sure whether this word exists, but you probably get the meaning), think again. You would discover that Harnoncourt was never interested in authenticity per se (even 30 years ago, he has not changed or betrayed his old convictions in the last decade or so), and I am sure that some of his 10 years old views of the HIP performances would certainly sound like pure heresy to some HIP fanatics even today.

 

Christmas Oratorio

Ambroz Bajec-Lapajne wrote (August 29, 1998):
My first choice is almost always Gardiner. It was also so when buying Christmas Oratorio. The soloists are the best that JEG could find in 1987 (!) when recording this magnificent piece. Rolfe-Johnson never fails (even if 'only' singing the role of Evangelist), neither do Nancy Argenta or Olaf Bar. This recording was one of my encounters with the tenor Hans Peter Blochwitz (also I think on Gardiner's Mozart Requiem). And what a singer. All those coloraturas in that, most suitable, JEG tempi. I especially like to listen to dance like aria "Ich will nur dr zur Ehren leben" from part four. A-S von Otter never really knocked me as a singer. The only problem I have with singers is their poor ornametations and free improvisations in da capo arias. I'm quite sure they have the knowledge (and without a shadow of a doubt the technique) to do more than that. And I never know who to blame - big boss the conductor or the singers. Otherwise the written ornaments are extremely well done! Especially the one sung by the soprano. Only the Echo singer could be better (Katie Pringle)...

The choir is as always very good, though it seems to me that the sopranos are in the first chorus of the first part "Jauchzet, frolocket, auf, preiset..." too sharp. They 'jauchze' too much. Notice the pianissimo beginnings of some of the Chorales.

Orchestra has some fine soloists - Crispian Steele-Perkins also strikes me as top trumpeter, and how he plays that natural trumpet! Many of the players on today's trumpet can't even begin to compare with him. And I also like the sound of natural trumpet (there has already been a whole discussion on this matter). A marvellous recording is also made with him and Emma Kirkby of BWV 51 with Gardiner.

My best part of the whole composition are (choral) "Herrscher des Himmels, erhöre das Lallen" from part three. Short but so powerful. And what a connection between text and music. Bach was really the best master in that (also the terzetto in part five "Ach, wenn wird die Zeit erscheinen")!, and "Ehre sei dir, Gott, gesungen". From arias I adore already mentioned "Ich will nur dir zi Ehren leben" for tenor. (I hope I'll be able to sing it properly soon...).

Overall the recording has that typical Gardiner drama tention and story telling, which should be even more obvious in the Christmas time. BTW in Dec. there's Peter Schreier coming to Ljubljana to perform (only) three cantatas from this oratorio. He'll be presumably conducting. I hope he won't sing...

 

J.S. Bach - the dance maestro

Ambroz Bajec-Lapajne wrote (October 25, 1998):
I'm back home after a 10-day-holidays in Sweden. Perhaps they were not holidays after all, since I went there with a specific (musical) purpose. I've heard a lot of great music in Stockholm, and also Mass in b-minor (BWV 232) with Anders Öhrwall as conductor and it was just a fiasco!! Poor Bach.... I've also been attending a celebration in honour of Eric Ericson 80th birthday (also did some great Bach recordings) and that was much more enjoyable.

Now back to 'dancing Bach'. Funny thing this dancing feelings, a? More interesting for me since I tried to explain the whole matter in May (dance-like tempi and so on) but was disabled by Jan to post my thoughts on the list (the 'Tempi' thread). So I was just explaining this to Ehud, who was initially interested in the matter.

I also get the feeling of dancing whenever listening to Bach (especially since I was a ballroom and latin-american dancer for ten years). The piece that makes me move every time (apart from Cum Santo...) is aria from Christmas Oratorio - Part Four (BWV 248/4) - tenor aria 'Ich will nur dir zu Ehren leben'. I have the 'speedy' version by Gardiner and it's even more jiggy... Check it out!

 

Christmas Oratorio

Samuel Frederick wrote (November 10, 1999):
Well, it's nearing that time of year again (I'm already hearing Christmas jingles on TV and on the radio) --- I do not have any recordings of the Christmas Oratorio and would like some recommendations as to what to buy. The two that look most appealing to me are the Suzuki and the Jacobs (w/Scholl).

I'm a big fan of Suzuki's cantata recordings, but remember list members (on the old list) expressing reservations about his performance of this piece. Could someone say why? Is it really not up to par? (BTW, who are the soloists on that one?)

And the Jacobs will now be super-cheap, so I just might get both. Can anyone say a little about the quality and style of this particular performance?

Any other Christmas Oratorios to recommend?

Jeff Leone wrote (November 10, 1999):
Pickett's version is due to being out soon on Decca. It should be very interesting. Maybe it’s out already in Europe. If it is, any comments?

John Downes wrote (November 10, 1999):
I bought the John Eliot Gardiner recording on Archiv back in about 1986 and have seen no reason to be dissatisfied with it today.

But I make a more general point about Bach (and Handel) recordings: as a rule of thumb try to avoid any performance in which René Jacobs opens his mouth. That man's squawking and hooting has ruined many otherwise good performances.

Simon Crouch wrote (November 10, 1999):
I remember expressing the reservation about the Suzuki that it was not quite as outstanding as his St. John Passion recording. I still think that it is an outstanding recording, though! By the way, if reviews mean anything to you, the Suzuki pretty much unanimously swept the board (in the UK) in comparative reviews of the CO.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (November 10, 1999):
I have the Herreweghe on Virgin Classics, recorded in 1989. I quite like it, and it is actually one of my favorite Bach recordings. It is happy and energetic, the choir is lively, and the overall performance is delightfu.

Donald Satz wrote (November 10, 1999):
Sam mentioned the Suzuki and Jacobs Christmas Oratorios. I have the Jacobs and think it's very good; Herreweghe on Virgin is also excellent. I have not been able yet to locate the Suzuki but am looking forward to it.

Of all the Christmas Oratorios I've heard, Gardiner's on Archiv satisfies me the most. He has a theatrical and exciting approach to the work which I find outstanding.

Pascal Bedaton wrote (November 11, 1999):
Because of the special offer made by HM, I bought last month the Christmas Oratorio by Jacobs. I have enjoyed it very well.

I have never heard anything from Suzuki, but with these good reviews I read in the discussion list or in magazines, I will test some recordings.

Ryan Michero wrote (November 11, 1999):
I have been following Suzuki's cantata series for a while now, and I have become a huge fan of his recordings. They seem to strike just the right balance of historical accuracy, virtuosity, expressiveness, and sensitivity to the texts.

There is a short article on Suzuki in the latest issue of Gramophone magazine (the Gramophone Awards issue). Although Suzuki's Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) and St. John Passion (BWV 245), both excellent recordings and my first choices for these works, lost the Baroque Vocal award, Vol.10 of the cantata series was chosen as the recording of the month, I believe. It seems mainstream critics are really taking notice now.

I loved Vol.10, especially BWV 105, and I would recommend it to anyone just starting out with Bach's cantatas and/or Suzuki's cantata recordings.

Matthew Westphal wrote (November 11, 1999):
I wouldn't say that Suzuki's performance of the Christmas Oratorio is "not up to par", but this is a very crowded field and even little flaws can lead one to recommend another performance instead.

The soloists on Suzuki's Xmas Oratorio are Monika Frimmer, Yoshikazu Mera, Gerd Turk and Peter Kooy. Kooy is as wonderful as you'd expect, and Turk isn't far behind, especially in the tenor arias. Frimmer's voice isn't to everyone's taste -- she can sometimes sound shrill, and she seems a bit uncomfortable at the top of her range this time out. The disappointment is Yoshikazu Mera. He's usually a superb singer (though his recent solo discs show some questionable taste); this time he sounds uncomfortable in his upper range as well, and his "Schlafe, mein Liebster" just sounds puny.

The chorus and orchestra are wonderful; their performance and Suzuki's conducting give a nice mid-point between the exuberance of Gardiner and the somewhat subdued radiance of Koopman. In this case, though, I kinda like the exuberance. Gardiner also has very, very good soloists: Anthony Rolfe-Johnson (Evangelist), Nancy Argenta, Hans-Peter Blochwitz (tenor arias), Olaf Bar -- and the young Anne Sofie von Otter (formidable competition for Mera).

 

Pickett's Xmas Oratorio

Jaime Jean wrote:
I think it's a new release (couldn't check the year under the wrappings, price tags and other inconveniences). Has anybody heard it? Any comments?

Jaime Jean wrote (November 24, 1999):
I'm glad you asked that fascinating question, Jaime. I recently saw it I have been tempted to buy it. Let me know if you find out something else.

Marie Jensen wrote (December 1, 1999):
I love Peter Schreier’s voice very much, so I would like to ask: Does anybody know the Christmas Oratorio with St. Michaelis Chor and Orch. Hamburg, Gunter Jena, Lynne Dawson, Marjana Livposek, Peter Schreier and Andreas Schmidt (Teldec DDD 1997)? Can't see in my catalogue if it's a live performance (hope not!) Can any one recommend it?

Philip Peters wrote (December 1, 1999):
I don't know it, but want to buy it immediately... Rilling recorded the Christmas Oratorio in 1984 with an equally convincing cast consisting of Auger, Hamari, Schreier & Schoene. I'm sure you would like this one too.

Jaime Jean wrote (January 29, 2000):
First of all let me re-introduce myself, I'm Jaime Jean from Mexico City – I used to subscribe to the old Bach Recordings list, and I'm glad to see the list has been set up again.

I would like to ask if somebody has listened to Pickett's CO which I think was released in 1999. Pickett is reliable on ancient music, but I'm a bit unsure about his baroque, some of which has disappointed me.

Ralf E. Stranzenbach wrote (December 16, 1999):
I've just read or heard about a recording of the Weihnachts-Oratorium played in the "original" setup with a small choir and instruments of that (baroque) time. Unfortunately, I can't remember where it was. Does anyone know this recording?

Marx wrote (December 21, 1999):
There are several of them. I just bought the René Jacobs recording with the Akademie fur Alte Musik Berlin. Not as much resonance as I would like, but a satisfying recording none the less.

Ben Crick wrote (December 21, 1999):
I have just bought BIS CD-941/942 of JS Bach, Weihnachts-Oratorium, BWV 248, by the Bach Collegium Japan under the direction of Masaaki Suzuki (sounds like a motor-bike!) but it is a brilliant rendition of historically-informed proportions. You won't be disappointed with this one.

Eltjo M. wrote (December 21, 1999):
There are several HIP recordings. A cheap and good one IMHO is available on Brilliant Classics (licensed from another company) with the Concerto Koln, Vokalen Ensemble Frankfurt, Christoph Prégardien, Klaus Mertens, Ruth Ziesak & Monica Groop, conductor Ralph Otto. The text is not provided but it should be available some where on the Net.

 

Continue on Part 2

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]

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: ýMarch 3, 2009 ý09:07:45