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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 3

Continue from Part 2

Bach’s bar lines

Charles Francis
wrote (August 5, 2002):
Looking at the opening page of the manuscript of the Christmas Oratorio:
http://www.jsbach.net/images/christmasoratorio.html

I was struck by the way at the end of bar eight, Bach has bent the bar line to go around the notes. This indicates that even though the bar lines are evenly spaced, Bach actually added them after he wrote the notes. Any thoughts?

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 5, 2002):
[To Charles Francis] The first thing to realize is that the autograph score of BWV 248 (Christmas Oratorio) that you are looking at is a 'clean copy' by Bach. Bach is copying almost without error from his original composition, BWV 214 "Tönt, ihr Pauken! Erschallet, Trompeten," which he had composed a year earlier on Dec. 7, 1733. I have the facsimile of the latter cantata which looks quite different because it is a 'working manuscript' which represents the first time that Bach committed this composition to paper.

It is interesting to compare the beginning of the 1st mvt. of both. Here is what you will find:

a) the staffs are closer together (less readable) in BWV 214 than in BWV 248.

b) Bach's notation in BWV 214 is in a lighter hand. He is writing more hurriedly. The notes are less deliberately placed than in BWV 248. The rests are not as carefully placed (some higher ones followed by lower ones - relative to the mid position on the staff.)

c) There are many cross-outs and corrections which leave no doubt that this is the first time the notes are being committed to paper.

d) The trumpets enter a measure earlier than in BWV 248, but Bach crosses out this premature entry so that BWV 214 is the same as BWV 248. Try to imagine this mvt. beginning immediately with the trumpets [and strings]!

e) The strings begin immediately in measure 1. Bach then has to cross out everything he had them play in the first four measures, in other words, Bach delays their entry for four measures so that it sounds the way we hear it today in both BWV 214 and BWV 248.

f) The timpani originally opened the mvt. with 4 eighth notes on C followed immediately by a volley of 4 sixteenth notes on G. This would sound something like: dam, dam, dam, dam, da, da, da, da, with the 'da's' twice as fast as the 'dam's.' Bach then crosses out the 16th notes and replaces them with a single 8th note on G and an 8th note rest.

g) The bar lines are usually drawn to encompass two or three staffs at once. These groupings of bar lines follow the groupings of instrumental groups. He does this in both BWV 214 and BWV 248. This could possibly mean that Bach composed while working on a specific group of instruments at one time. Just how many measures at a time he would cover in this manner, I have not been able to detect by looking only at these two facsimiles.

Perhaps, as Bach was writing out the 'clean copy,' he worked from the top down in groups and did not judge correctly how much space all the fast notes would use up at the bottom of the page which was covered by his arm. As you see, he found an adequate solution by extending the bar lines into areas where only rests occur.

Charles Francis wrote (August 6, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thanks for this information. I checked 'Bach Digital'

http://bachdigital.uni-leipzig.de/dl/search.html

and found they have on-line manuscripts for BWV 5, 42, 51, 68, 76, 113, 140, 180, 211, 225, 232, 245 and 248. But, unfortunately BWV 214 is not among these.

I suspected BWV 248 was a copy as it didn't flow and looked too deliberate (no rhythm in the notes). I wonder if it is known in what order Bach wrote the parts of his cantatas? I imagine he might start with the figured bass to have the harmony fixed.

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 6, 2002):
< Charles asks: I wonder if it is known in what order Bach wrote the parts of his cantatas? I imagine he might start with the figured bass to have the harmony fixed. >
Sometimes he would simply write down the motif (upper treble part) on an unused section at the bottom of the page (no bc) to see what it looks like. In one instance, he notated such a scribble, but then, on the next page where the aria begins, modified the rhythmic structure of the figure as he continued to put down the notes for the aria. It seems from this that the musical figure came to his mind before the realization of the bc.

Charles Francis wrote (August 6, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] Yes, it makes sense that Bach would tend to think horizontally (thematically), rather than vertically (harmonically).


Jauchzet, frohlocket!

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 25, 2002):
It's getting to be about that season (pre-Advent), and today I enjoyed listening to Bach's Christmas Oratorio: a live recording from 1993, Cologne Chamber Choir and Collegium Cartusianum conducted by Peter Neumann. 3-CD produced by Deutsche Welle.

What are your favorite recordings of this? My other two favorites are Herreweghe (OOP?) and Harnoncourt.

Juozas Rimas wrote (October 25, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] I have only Gardiner's and I must admit I don't feel big necessity in another recording. It's really good - very lively drums, good choir singing. Arias could be better but the choir work is great.

Alpha H. Walker wrote (October 26, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] I love Gardiner's recordings. I really like his choice of tempi in this and most of his Bach recordings. Great spirit in this Christmas Oratorio recording!

Olle Hedström wrote (October 26, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] Have you heard/sean Gardiner's version on DVD, which started his Cantata pilgrimage, 2000 ?? It is simply stunning to watch, a must have! It's pure magic, if you ask me.

Thomas Radleff wrote (October 26, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] The whole Christmas Oratorio in a very beautiful and clear recording, driven by a lively pulse, rereleased at a ridiculous price (but without any booklet) at Brilliant Classics:
Concerto Köln, directed by Ralf Otto. Only the choir is not really first choice: Vokalensemble Frankfurt.
At least three of the soloists are excellent:
S Ruth Ziesak
A Monica Groop
T Christoph Prégardien
B Klaus Mertens

Peter Bright wrote (October 28, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] I only have two versions, Suzuki's acclaimed version and Karl Richter's - Suzuki's, in particular, is superb but I do feel that in a work like this, the larger forces and modern instruments of the Richter approach works well too.

Craig Schweickert wrote (October 28, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] Gardiner's set is one of the few of his Bach recordings that I really like. In part that's because the music responds well to his tendancy to drive hard, and maybe he relaxes more than usual. Although the soloists use more vibrato than I'd like, their signing is beautiful and heartfelt (Bär and Blochwitz are especially outstanding). The choir and orchestra are splendid.

Cut my teeth on Richter's and Harnoncourt's recordings (I preferred the latter, of course), but it's been years since I've heard either. Another all-male performance worth tracking down is Schmidt-Gaden's with the Tölz Boy's Choir on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi (quite possibly OOP); technically imperfect but totally disarming in its naïveté. More than any other, it feels "right," authentic in the sense that you almost find yourself believing it's a performance by and for a Lutheran congregation in Bach's time (not by stars for a modern, jaded concert-hall audience)--a trait it shares with Leonhardt's St. Matthew Passion.

Haven't heard Suzuki's recording (Gramophone's top recco) or Herreweghe's (so many disks, so little money...). Despite its incidental beauties, a single hearing of Jacob's (with Röschmann, Scholl, the Akademie für Alte Musik, et al.) left mlargely unmoved.

Robert Sherman wrote (October 28, 2002):
[To Craig Schweickert] Rilling and Guttenberg are my favorites. The latter is a Swedish recording done by people I'd never heard of before (except for trumpeter Haken Hardenberger) but it's first-rate in all respects.

Santu De Silva wrote (October 30, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] Harry Christophers & The Sixteen Choir/Orch!!!

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (October 31, 2002):
[To Craig Schweickert] I've seen the Herreweghe at a store (Borders in the U.S.)-so its not out of print (unless OOP means something else!)

Dietmar Engelke (Concertino) wrote (October 31, 2002):
[To Thomas Radleff] I'm new to this group, so I first would like to introduce me: I am 35 years old, live in Hannover, Germany (so please excuse any mistakes in my english), and I am an amateur singer in the Hannover Bach Choir ( www.bachchor-hannover.de ) and in the modus novus Choir ( www.modusnovus.de ).

I didn't know that there is a Brilliant Classic edition of the Ralf Otto Recording. I bought this recording a few years ago as a full price edition. I heard a lot of recordings of the Christmas Oratorio that time, and found this to be the best one, especially because of the soloists.

Thomas Radleff wrote (November 3, 2002):
< Concertino wrote: I didn't know that there is a Brilliant Classic edition of the Ralf
Otto Recording of the Christmas Oratorio. >
- Probably they don´t have it any longer in their program; at least it´s not in the recent Zweitausendeins catalogue, and the christmas oratorio in the box Vocal Works Vol.II seems to be by someone else.

BTW - do you, or does anybody else know if the Brilliant Classics homepage can be found somewhere ? Zweitausendeins don´t post the link anymore, and it seems to be withdrawn from the web.

Rob Potharst wrote (November 3, 2002):
[To Thomas Radleff] They seem to go under a different name now:
http://www.joanrecords.com/

But if you click on "classical" music on this website, you get all the Brilliant Classics stuff..

Dietmar Engelke (Concertino) wrote (November 4, 2002):
< Thomas Radleff wrote: BTW - do you, or does anybody else know if the Brilliant Classics homepage can be found somewhere ? >
I usually look for the BrilliantClassic CDs at the 'Rossmann Drogerie Markt' here in Germany. They also have a Website ( http://www.rossmann.de ), where you can order some of the BrilliantClassic editions. The Christmas Oratorio is not offered at the moment. Maybe in a few weeks?


Two questions about the Weihnachts-Oratorium / X-O

Pierce Drew wrote (December 10, 2002):
I have been thoroughly enjoying the Suzuki's recording of the Christmas Oratorio over the last few days. In fact, I have been able to listen to little else. There are many wonderful moments in this recording. One favorite right now: no. 4 (countertenor aria) by Yoshikazu Mera. Wow! What are some of your favorite movements / recordings of the W-O?

Strange thing for me: the W-O, until this year, never really fascinated me. For several years I have had the Jacobs recording (Harmonia Mundi), which is quite good -- I bought it for the Scholl contributions. And then I bought the more recent Pickett recording (Decca), but it seemed dull to me and I sold it. Finally, I bought the Suzuki recording and the work took on a whole new life for me. Funny how that works!

I don't think I will listen to much else until Christmas. My wife was complaining about hearing some Christmas music, but I am trying to convince her that it does not get any better than this!!! I love Händel's Messiah -- indeed, it opened the doors of
classical music to me as a child -- but there is something challenging and refreshing about Bach's W-O (and all his music, for that matter) that is missing in Handel's holiday warhorse. Maybe it is just that I have heard it too much over the years (?) Hackneyed, perhaps?

I came across an interesting perspective on the W-O the other day. I was reading Simon Heigh's entry ("Christmas Oratorio," pp.104-5) in Oxford Composer Companions: J.S. Bach (Boyd, ed.) and he had the following to say about the element of parody in the work:

"In Bach's time the reuse of material in this way was entirely usual. Although some scholars have disparaged PARODY technique on such a large scale, it should be remembered that originality per se was not the major criterion of artistic judgment that it is today. Bach was on the whole as literal as possible when transferring material from one work to another, and often the change of text was the only major alteration. Although this sometimes led to surprising incongruities -- the inappropriate echoes in the aria 'Floesst, mein Heiland' (no. 39) are explained only by the text of its model, 'Treues Echo, dieser Orten' from Herkules -- Bach was usually careful in his selection of material."

Sorry for the long quote. This assessment really struck me as odd. True, the vocal / instrumental echo of no. 39 makes the most sense in the aria from which it is borrowed. But to call it "inappropriate" and a "surprising incongruity"??? To me it makes perfect sense. The soloist is asking question of Christ and there is a clear response. How could anyone see this beautiful musical picture as inappropriate and
incongruous?

I don't know -- perhaps I am too much of a "believer" of Bach and should adopt a hermeneutics of suspicion when examining such issues. How do the rest of you take the echoes of no. 39?

Anyway, happy holidays to all -- do bring them in with Bach's glorious, joyful Christmas Oratorio!!!

Peter Bright wrote (December 10, 2002):
[To Pierce Drew] Just a note to say I thoroughly agree with you about Suzuki's Christmas Oratorio. I have heard several versions, but most of them haven't come off my shelf since I purchased this one (although I do still have a soft spot for the power harnessed by the larger forces in the old Karl Richter recording). I saw a documentary some months ago on BBC 4 (BBC's fairly new digital TV station) on Sviatoslav Richter where he also praised the special qualities of the Xmas Oratorio, proclaiming that surely there cannot be any music as joyful and uplifting as the first movement of this work.

Bernard Nys wrote (December 10, 2002):
[To Pierce Drew & Peter Bright] I've always said that the first Cantata of the X-Mas Oratorio is the strongest work of J.S. Bach. I agree with S. Richter (documentary released on video tape and DVD). Speaking about good versions, I can only advise the Gardiner DVD and the Peter Schreier box (no period instruments, huge forces, great soloists, special trumpet ensemble,...), full digital and full price unfortunately.

Juozas Rimas wrote (December 10, 2002):
< I have been thoroughly enjoying the Suzuki's recording of the Christmas Oratorio over the last few days. In fact, I have been able to listen to little else. There are many wonderful moments in this recording. One favorite right now: no. 4 (countertenor aria) by Yoshikazu Mera. Wow! What are some of your favorite movements / recordings of the W-O? >
The most impressive to me are the intro choirs, especially "Jauchzet, frohlocket!" and "Ehre sei dir, Gott, gesungen". I have listened to Gardiner's rendition and I can't magine they can be played more aggressively - the drums are MAD and I like this a lot.

The very last chorale "Nun seid ihr wohl gerochen" is also a marvel, one of my verall favorite chorales (along with "Wie soll ich dich empfangen" from the same Xmas oratorio, "Christus, der uns selig macht" from Johannes Passion and the last chorale of BWV 107 "Was wills du dich betrueben").

As per your recommendation, I'll have to get a copy of Suzuki's Xmas oratorio because I have heard Mera in some cantatas and I enjoyed the genderlessness of his voice immensely - it's free both from unnatural Mrs-Doubtfire-like voice color of countertenors and the excessive vibrato of most female altos and also from the shakiness of most boy altos. Mera's diction must be imperfect but as I barunderstand German, I am more or less immune to such flaws :) He simply has a nice voice. All other altos - males or females of any age - I have heard so far are mere artisans at work...

The alto arias of the Xmas oratorio are simply wonderful. I enjoyed the deep basses in Gardiner's "Bereite dich, Zion" (I love deep basses everywhere and thank Herreweghe for using them in his recordings) and Anne Sophie von Otter's voice wasn't too bad. "Schlafe, mein Liebster" and "Schliesse, mein Herze" are splendid, especially the middle minor part of the "Schlafe, mein Liebster".

The recording with Equiluz singing both evangelist parts and arias is also top-notch. Harnoncourt employs slower tempos which works eg in "Ich will nur dir zu Ehren leben" (Gardiner's fast version makes a mockery of the tenor's singing even if it were superb) yet eg in the multi-oboes last tenor aria "Nun moegt ihr stolzen..." a faster tempo wouldn't have harmed because the tenor part isn't as ornamented as in "Ich will nur dir zu Ehren leben". Don't miss some quite non-secco evangelists, eg "Und liess versammeln all Hohepriester" too! It's outstanding!

The oratorio has only two (?) solo bass arias although plenty of nice recitatives. My natural choice would be Dieskau but I know festive music is not the best music for him - I have heard one of his renditions of the "Grosser Herr" and it was quite inflated. Do you have any other recommendations?

I haven't yet listened carefully to the soprano parts of the oratorio and don't have an opinion yet.

Anyway, I hope I'll like Mera and have my dream-team half completed (Equiluz, Mera and Gardiner's orchestra and choir).

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 10, 2002):
Drew Pierce commented and asked:
< I came across an interesting perspective on the W-O the other day. I was reading Simon Heigh's entry ("Christmas Oratorio," pp.104-5) in Oxford Composer
Companions: J.S. Bach (Boyd, ed.) and he had the following to say about the element of parody in the work:

"In Bach's time the reuse of material in this way was entirely usual. Although some scholars have disparaged PARODY technique on such a large scale, it should be remembered that originality per se was not the major criterion of artistic judgment that it is today. Bach was on the whole as literal as possible when transferring material from one work to another, and often the change of text was the only major alteration. Although this sometimes led to surprising incongruities -- the inappropriate echoes in the aria 'Floesst, mein Heiland' (no. 39) are explained only by the text of its model, 'Treues Echo, dieser Orten' from Herkules -- Bach was usually careful in his selection of material."

Sorry for the long quote. This assessment really struck me as odd. True, the vocal / instrumental echo of no. 39 makes the most sense in the aria from which it is
borrowed. But to call it "inappropriate" and a "surprising incongruity"??? To me it makes perfect sense. The soloist is asking question of Christ and there is a clear response. How could anyone see this beautiful musical picture as inappropriate and incongruous?

I don't know -- perhaps I am too much of a "believer" of Bach and should adopt a hermeneutics of suspicion when examining such issues. How do the rest of you
take the echoes of no. 39? >
This 'Echo' Aria most likely derives from a secular cantata, BWV 213 "Laßt uns sorgen, laßt uns wachen" where the original text was:

Hercules:

Treues Echo, dieser Orten,
Solt ich bey den Schmeichel-Worten
Süßer Leitung irrig seyn?
Gib mir doch zur Antwort: Nein!
Echo:Nein!
Oder solte das Ermahnen,
Das so mancher Arbeit nah,
Mir die Wege besser bahnen?
Ach so sage lieber: Ja!
Echo: Ja!

Friedrich Smend contended that the Echo Aria had yet a different origin in the aria, "Frommes Schicksal, wenn ich frage" from Cantata BWV Anh. 11. This also contains the echo effect and the same basic meter; however, the verse form is not exactly the same. [I can not find the text (or music) for this cantata.]

The NBA II/6 KB indicates that the parody of the Echo Aria is not as firmly established as the other mvts. from BWV 213. Only because so many other mvts. from BWV 213 were parodied in the WO, is this Echo Aria included as possibly being parodied at the same time.

Alfred Dürr, in his book on the Bach cantatas, states:

This Echo Aria is in many ways very foreign to our way of thinking so that it is necessary to remind ourselves of the common practice in the 17th century of presenting musically a spiritual dialogue between God and the soul of a believer. Dürr documents this with a composition by Andreas Hammerschmidt (1645):
"Gespräch zwischen Gott und einer gläubigen Seele."

So the Echo Aria is not necessarily 'inappropriate' nor is it in any way a 'surprising incongruity.' Simon Heigh's research into this matter seems to have been rather superficial in regard to the Echo Aria.

Robert Sherman wrote (December 10, 2002):
[To Pierce Drew] As a trumpeter, I regard the finale to the sixth cantata as one of the most thrilling -- and challenging -- pieces in existence.

My favorite performances of it are Hannes Laeuben with Rilling, and with Haaken Hardenberger with Guttenberg. But I must say neither satisfies me completely. The definitive performance of this section has yet to be recorded -- or at least I haven't heard it.

Pierce Drew wrote (December 10, 2002):
< Juozas Rimas wrote: The most impressive to me are the intro choirs, especially "Jauchzet, frohlocket!" and "Ehre sei dir, Gott, gesungen". I have listened to Gardiner's rendition and I can't imagine they can be played more aggressively - the drums are MAD and I like this a lot. >
Yes, as Bernard suggested in his response, the opening chorus is PURE JOY. It is right up there with the glory of the opening of Magnificat and the Gloria (no. 4) from Mass in B Minor (BWV 232). I haven't heard the Gardiner recording, although I'm sure, as you say, that it is excellent. Gardiner excells at bringing out human drama -- something he has stated that he strives for.

< The very last chorale "Nun seid ihr wohl gerochen" is also a marvel, one of my overall favorite chorales (along with "Wie soll ich dich empfangen" from the same Xmas oratorio, "Christus, der uns selig macht" from Johannes Passion and the last chorale of BWV 107 "Was wills du dich betrueben"). >
Yes, the closing chorale is also magnificent -- it is nice to hear this favorite chorale of Bach (which is especially prominent in the SMP) "dressed up" for the yuletide holidays!

< As per your recommendation, I'll have to get a copy of Suzuki's Xmas oratorio because I have heard Mera in some cantatas and I enjoyed the genderlessness of his voice immensely - it's free both from unnatural Mrs-Doubtfire-like voice color of countertenors and the excessive vibrato of most female altos and also from the shakiness of most boy altos. Mera's diction must be imperfect but as I barely understand German, I am more or less immune to such flaws :) He simply has a nice voice. All other altos – males or females of any age - I have heard so far are mere artisans at work... >
Yes, the Suzuki is well worth the acquistion. Not only are Mera's androgynous contributions about as close to perfection that you can find in a countertenor, but, as seen in their cantata cycle, Suzuki and the BCJ are superb as always. They are
brilliant advocates of this music, which, of course, is, in essence, six cantatas tied together so masterfully.

< The alto arias of the Xmas oratorio are simply wonderful. I enjoyed the deep basses in Gardiner's "Bereite dich, Zion" (I love deep basses everywhere and thank Herreweghe for using them in his recordings) and Anne Sophie von Otter's voice wasn't too bad. "Schlafe, mein Liebster" and "Schliesse, mein Herze" are splendid, especially the middle minor part of the "Schlafe, mein Liebster". >
Yes, "Schlafe, mein Liebster" is brilliant, as is "Schliesse, mein Herze" which, as some have suggested, the spiritual center of the piece and newly composed for the Oratorio (notparodied, as "Schlafe, mein Liebster"). Mera is perfection in both, as you might expect. Kooj (or Kooy) sings the bass arias -- so if you like Herreweghe, who most often in the past has employed Kooj's talents (e.g., in the Bass Cantatas
disc he did for Harmonia Mundi), you would enjoy him here as well.

< The recording with Equiluz singing both evangelist parts and arias is also top-notch. Harnoncourt employs slower tempos which works eg in "Ich will nur dir zu Ehren leben" (Gardiner's fast version makes a mockery of the tenor's singing even if it were superb) yet eg in the multi-oboes last tenor aria "Nun moegt ihr stolzen..." a faster tempo wouldn't have harmed because the tenor part isn't as ornamented as in "Ich will nur dir zu Ehren leben". Don't miss some quite non-secco evangelists, eg "Und liess versammeln all Hohepriester" too! It's outstanding! >
I haven't heard the Harnoncourt, either. Although, based on your enthusiasm, I will certainly have to investigate Gardiner's interpretation. I understand there is a DVD of the W-O from his recent Bach Pilgrimage, but, of course, it is only available on PAL.

Pierce Drew wrote (December 10, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thanks Tom for your very imformative response!

I guess I was responding primarily to the argument that the echoes of no. 39 are "incongruous" and "inappropriate," an idea that seems absurd to me. As a a lay Bachian -- not a scholar by any means – they make total aesthetic / musical sense. True – there is no textual "echo" as in the BWV 213 aria from which it was most likely parodied, but the musical echo works well with the notion of response to prayer.

Indeed, this convention of dialogue between God and the soul is also present, to a degree, in seventeenth century English poetry. The most prominent example that comes to mind is Andrew Marvell's (1621-1678) "A Dialogue Between the Soul and Body" (publ. posth., 1681).

Thank you especially for the Dürr quote. Although much of Bach's music is with us, so to speak, we are far removed from the social / historical / cultural / musicological context in which it was composed. We forget that sometimes and impose our early twenty-first century perspective on his work. Of course, we can never fully recover Bach's context, despite the insights of the period performance movement.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (December 11, 2002):
[To Bernard Nys] Actually, I was going to ask about reccomendations of recordings of the Christmas Oratorio, as my next "conquest" (i.e. major work that I will either save up for or beg my parents to get for me)

I would prefer HIP, but I'm still open to non-HIP. I borrowed the Richter box set (the one with the predominately silver packaging) from the library, and even though it still lets the great music shine through and was enjoyable to listen to (yes, there are Bach recordings out there that the opposite can be said of), the tempi seemed a bit slow, and imo the singing seemed even forced at times. So the Richter isn't too bad, but I know there's better out there, I just don't know which ones.

I have the Herreweghe Mass in Bmin, and that's great (except the Gloria could be a bit stronger), so I also already have the fun cd-rom that comes with it. Does this recording have any other works included (the Mass also has BWV 80 and 243)?

As well, I have the Christmas CD from the Bach 2000 collection, which includes Koopman, the ABO et al doing excerpts from the Oratorio: the opening chorus to Cantata One, the arias "Bereite dich, Zion" and "Groser Herr, o starker Konig", and the Chorale "Wie soll ich dich empfangen". All are very well done, so this could be an indicator as to what I like. Is the Koopman the one I should go with? If this is from the Complete Works set (Bach 2000), can it be purchased individually?

Thanks for all the suggestions!

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (December 11, 2002):
I should also note that I have the Gardiner redording of Handel's Solomon, and I have to say that this is my favourite recording I own-of any composer, period, anything (sorry JSB)

Also, reading the archived discussions of the Christmas Oratorio on the bach cantatas site, the Gardiner recording seems to be the most prefered one. Any comments?

Alpha Walker wrote (December 11, 2002):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] I have really loved the Gardiner version of the Christmas Oratorio. Maybe one could split hairs about certain details of the performance, but I have listened to it multiple times with great joy at the hearing. Now it would be very hard for me to like another performance as much, or more, becuase it sounds just right.

Pete Blue wrote (December 11, 2002):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] To me, what separates the great from the merely worthy Christmas Oratorio recordings is the sense of occasion, of communal rejoicing. I like my COs a little bumptious. This is admittedly a very subjective criterion. The CO's I know that best meet it, in no particular order, are the Gardiner, the Guttenberg, and the Schmidt-Gaden (the last named with all male voices, from Deutsche Harmonia Mundi). The others I know (including the first CO I ever acquired, decades ago: the lovely Münchinger with Elly Ameling et al.), whatever their casting and conducting charms, come up short in that department.

Craig Schweickert wrote (December 11, 2002):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] If, as your post indicates, you aren't allergic to Gardiner in baroque music, you needn't hesitate: it's a pretty sure bet you'll be swept along from the first bar to the last. Here's what I wrote in an off-list discussion a while ago:

"Gardiner's set has all his usual virtues--alert conducting, crack orchestra, excellent chorus, HIPness of sorts--and a fine roster of soloists. He also comes across as less driven than he sometimes is in Bach and, anyway, he always sounds more at home in extroverted, festive music like the Christmas Oratorio than in introspective, deeply spiritual works.

"Of course, the performance shows some of his usual failings, too. Less hard-driven it may be but it's still driven (in this case, though, the music can take it). Some of the soloists use more vibrato than I like (e.g. von Otter, whose real Fach is classical and romantic, I think). Rolfe Johnson sings well and has fine pronunciation but doesn't sound particularly German. Women singers are involved, a no-no in Bach's day. And maybe it's all a shade too polished and self-aware. Still, I think it, along with the B-Minor Mass, is one of the best things Gardiner's done in Bach."

Brief comments on other HIP versions I've heard: Herreweghe on Virgin is typically refined--a bit too for my tastes. Jacobs (Harmonia Mundi France) has some impressive moments and an excellent orchestra but the elements just don't come together. The flaws in Schmidt-Gaden's all-male version (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi; probably no longer available in Canada) hardly detract from its overall charm; it's my sentimental favourite.

Suzuki's recording has got high praise from many quarters (it has surplanted Gardiner's as Gramophone's recommended recording). I have yet to hear it.

Robert Sherman wrote (December 11, 2002):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] If you're willing to look outside of HIP to the point of liking Richter (I do), I also recommend Rilling and Guttenberg.



Continue on Part 4


Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248: Details
Recordings: Until 1960 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | Individual Movements
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Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6
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BWV 248 - Christophers | BWV 248 - Gardiner | BWV 248 - Jacobs | BWV 248 - Otto | BWV 248 - Richter | BWV 248 - Rilling | BWV 248 - Schreier | BWV 248 - Suzuki | BWV 248 - Kurt Thomas | BWV 248 - Veldhoven
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A Bottomless Bucket of Bach - Christmas Oratorio (by Donald Satz)

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Last update: ýOctober 14, 2005 ý16:57:11