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Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248

Conducted by Peter Schreier

Recording

V-9

Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248

Peter Schreier

Rundfunkchor Leipzig (Chorus Master: Jörg-Peter Weigle) / Staatskapelle Dresden

Soprano [Arias, Angel]: Helen Donath, Soprano [Echo]: Andrea Ihle, Contralto: Marjana Lipovšek, Tenor [Evangelist]: Peter Schreier, Tenor [Arias]: Eberhard Büchner, Bass [Arias, Herodes]: Robert Holl

Philips

Jan 1987

3-CD / TT: 150:27

Schreier's Christmas Oratorio -- live

Uri Golomb
wrote (December 22, 2004):
A few days ago (on Sunday, December 19), I attended a live performance of the Christmas Oratorio, conducted by Peter Schreier, who also took the role of Evangelist. The concert took place in the Henry Crown auditorium in Jerusalem; Schreier conducted the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, the New Vocal Ensemble (dir. Yuval Ben Ozer) and soloists Ira Bertman (soprano), Bracha Kol (mezzo), Alexander Yudenkov (tenor) and Egbert Junghanns (baritone). Schreier brought with him the keyboard-continuo player Hansjorg Albrecht, who played alternately on organ and harpsichord.

This was, on the whole, a very enjoyable event -- though I did have some reservations, which I want to get out of the way first. To begin with, I'm not convinced it's a good idea to perform the entire Christmas Oratorio in one concert. It is a brilliant and colourful work, but over a stretch of 3 hours it can outstay its welcome. This is no criticism of Bach: the Oratorio consists of six distinct cantatas, and each of them was meant to be performed on a separate day. The composer never envisaged a complete performance of the entire Oratorio in one concert (or even one church service). On the whole, I did enjoy the entire work, but there were moments when it seemed a bit tiring. Perhaps the best way to perform the Christmas Oratorio is either to split it into two concerts (which is done sometimes), or to perform its constituent cantatas indpedently in concerts, alongside other works by Bach. One could even place one of them alongside more contemplative or even mournful works, to create an overall varied program. Finally, the secular cantatas on which many movements of the Christmas Oratorio are based deserve to be heard more frequently on their own.

Secondly, I was not impressed with any of the soloists, with the exception of Schreier himself. My most serious reservations were with the soprano Ira Bertman, whose voice sounded much too intense and vibrato-laden, and occasionally shrill and unpleasant. The other soloists did not leave a strong lasting impression, either positively or negatively; they seemed fine but a pale and lacklustre.

Having said all that, my overall impression was positive. Schreier himself remains a superb Evangelist; he is 69 years old, and must have performed this role dozens of times, yet there was no sense of routine in his interpretation, and only an occasional hint of vocal frailness. In fact, his singing in this concert seemed highly dramatic and confident even by his own standards. As a conductor, his interpretation seems to have mellowed since he made his recording of the work in 1987: while the preference for sharp articulation and detailed phrasing is still there, he allows more moments of expansive, extended phrasing. Thus, thue Sinfonia that opens the second cantata, which seemed somewhat self-conscious and held-back in his recording, received in this concert a much broader, more lyrical and expressive interpretation. I have heard more colourful and imaginative interpretations of this Oratorio, but Schreier's interpretation was attentive, lively and joyful.The transitions from conducting to singing were very smooth, and created an overall sense of continuity. Schreier stood alongside the soloists, with his back to the choir and facing the orchestra and audience. The orchestra itself was divided in two: the violins, violas, timpani and trumpets to the audience's left; the woodwinds and continuo to the audience's right. The middle of the stage was empty, presumably to ensure that no players would be placed with their back to the conductor. (This was the first time I've seen Schreier conduct and sing simultaneously, so I'm not sure whether this is his standard arrangement. I'll be curious to hear from others who have seen him in this dual role -- evangelist/conductor -- on other occasions). Schreier conducted by heart and without baton, and occasionally turned to the choir so that he could conduct them as well. While singing, he gestured to the continuo players to indicate the length of note he required (he usually used shortened accompaniment -- even in several of the accompagnati, like the alto's "Warum woll ihr erschrekcken?", Cantata 5, no. 49 -- though on a few occasions he did extend notes almost to full length; on his approach to this issue in his 1987 recording, see <http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Recitatives-11.htm>).

Visually, it was good to be able to see the conductor's face for once (we're used to seeing them from the back); but I would have preferred to have the woodwinds more centre-stage, especially in their obbligato movements. Also, the overbearingly shrill trumpets -- the one disrupting factor in an otherwise fine orchestral sound -- were placed too close to the front. and dominated the texture too frequently. (BTW, the trumpets also played the parts in Cantata no. 4 usually played by horns; I should find out exactly what instrument Bach called for here).

It was good to hear an Israeli chamber choir singing this repertoire, and doing it so well: on this showing, Yuval Ben Ozer's New Vocal Ensemble is an excellent choir, no less so than many of the choirs "imported" to Israel for performances of Baroque and Classical music. The orchestra, too, played with remarkable flexibility, clarity and lightness; I especially enjoyed the obbligato playing of violinist Yuri Glokhovsky (I hope I got the spelling right...), and flautist Noam Buchmann. By now, I am convinced that modern symphony orchestras are quite capable of giving convincing performances of this repertoire -- especially when they are attentive to the lessons learned and taught by their "historical" colleagues (as a singer, Schreier performed Bach's music with a wide range of musicians -- from Richter an Karajan to Koopman and Harnoncourt -- and his familiarity with HIP is certainly felt in his performances).

In short: my reservations notwithstanding, this was a fine performance of the Christmas Oratorio -- light, stylish, energetic and clear, and with several highly touching moments (such as the Sinfonia and lullaby from Cantata 2, and many of the chorales). The highlight, however, remained Schreier's astonishingly youthful singing: Schreier the Evangelist still eclipsed Schreier the conductor, though there was much to admire in the latter as well.

Bob Henderson wrote (December 22, 2004):
[To Uri Golomb] Dear Uri. I though that Shreier had retired long ago. Its so good to hear that he is not only alive but very active. I can sympathize with all of your reservations about the concert. As a lover of the XO I cannot imagine sitting through all six cantatas. But there is always something about the live concert, no matter how flawed that excites beyond any recording. May we live to hear many more concerts by Peter Schreier.! Thanks for your review.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (December 22, 2004):
Uri Golomb wrote: < This was, on the whole, a very enjoyable event -- though I did have some reservations, which I want to get out of the way first. To begin with, I'm not convinced it's a good idea to perform the entire ChOratorio in one concert. It is a brilliant and colourful work, but over a stretch of 3 hours it can outstay its welcome. This is no criticism of Bach: the Oratorio consists of six distinct cantatas, and each of them was meant to be performed on a separate day. The composer never envisaged a complete performance of the entire Oratorio in one concert (or even one church service). On the whole, I did enjoy the entire work, but there were moments when it seemed a bit tiring. Perhaps the best way to perform the Christmas Oratorio is either to split it into two concerts (which is done sometimes), or to perform its constituent cantatas indpedently in concerts, alongside other works by Bach. One could even place one of them alongside more contemplative or even mournful works, to create an overall varied program. Finally, the secular cantatas on which many movements of the Christmas Oratorio are based deserve to be heard more frequently on their own. >
Actually, you bring up a good point.

When Bach wrote (or rather compiled) the Weinachtsoratorium, he intended (as following the Evangelical Gottesdienst [Order of Service]) to spread it over six days: the first day of Christmas (25 December) 1734, the second day of Christmas (a.k.a. the Feast of St. Stephen the Martyr, 26 December) 1734, the 3rd day of Christmas (a.k.a. the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, 27 December) 1734, the Sunday after Christmas (None performed), New Year's Day (a.k.a. the Feast of the Circumcision, 1 January) 1735, the Sunday after New Year's Day (2 January) 1735, and the Feast of the Epiphany (6 January) 1735. So, in essence any production (whether live or recorded) which puts them all on one day is going against Bach's intentions.

< Secondly, I was not impressed with any of the soloists, with the exception of Schreier himself. My most serious reservations were with the soprano Ira Bertman, whose voice sounded much too intense and vibrato-laden, and occasionally shrill and unpleasant. The other soloists did not leave a strong lasting impression, either positively or negatively; they seemed fine but a pale and lacklustre. >
Were they "professional" singers, or did they come from the Choir? I know about Schreier, but not the others.

The reason why I ask is that, if one tries to do a performance going by the intentions of the composer of the work (which is seldom done these days, with so much emphasis put on getting "big names" for recordings and productions), then the extraneous soloists would not be used. Instead, all the solo parts would be performed by members of the Choir performing the work. That's the way it was in Bach's day (at least in Sacred music, for it was different in the Opera-houses, where they did hire singers for their productions), and that's the way his music should be performed.

< Having said all that, my overall impression was positive. Schreier himself remains a superb Evangelist; he is 69 years old, and must have performed this role dozens of times, yet there was no sense of routine in his interpretation, and only an occasional hint of vocal frailness. In fact, his singing in this concert seemed highly dramatic and confident even by his own standards. As a conductor, his interpretation seems to have mellowed since he made his recording of the work in 1987: while the preference for sharp articulation and detailed phrasing is still there, he allows more moments of expansive, extended phrasing. Thus, thue Sinfonia that opens the second cantata, which seemed somewhat self-conscious and held-back in his recording, received in this concert a much broader, more lyrical and expressive interpretation. I have heard more colourful and imaginative interpretations of this Oratorio, but Schreier's interpretation was attentive, lively and joyful.The transitions from conducting to singing were very smooth, and created an overall sense of continuity. Schreier stood alongside the soloists, with his back to the choir and facing the orchestra and audience. The orchestra itself was divided in two: the violins, violas, timpani and trumpets to the audience's left; the woodwinds and continuo to the audience's right. The middle of the stage was empty, presumably to ensure that no players would be placed with their back to the conductor. (This was the first time I've seen Schreier conduct and sing simultaneously, so I'm not sure whether this is his standard arrangement. I'll be curious to hear from others who have seen him in this dual role -- evangelist/conductor -- on other occasions). Schreier conducted by heart and without baton, and occasionally turned to the choir so that he could conduct them as well. While singing, he gestured to the continuo players to indicate the length of note he required (he usually used shortened accompaniment -- even in several of the accompagnati, like the alto's "Warum woll ihr erschrekcken?", Cantata 5, no. 49 -- though on a few occasions he did extend notes almost to full length; on his approach to this issue in his 1987 recording, see: <http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Recitatives-11.htm>). >

How big was the Orchestra? How many performers per instrument?

Again, there is a reason for asking. If it is like it is in most modern performances, there are way too many performers per instrument when compared to contemporary practices in Bach's day. For insteance, where there would only be two Violinists (one playing the Violin I part, the other the Violin II part), there would be ten playing the Violin I part and ten playing the Violin II part.

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 22, 2004):
Uri Golomb wrote: >>(BTW, the trumpets also played the parts in Cantata no. 4 usually played by horns; I should find out exactly what instrument Bach called for here).<<
It was scored for 'corni da caccia.' Technically speaking, the 'corno da caccia,' also known as the 'hunters' or 'Italian' trumpet, belongs to the trumpet and not to the horn family of instruments. Specifically Bach wanted 2 'corni da caccia' in F (12 ft. long) for the 4th WO cantata (BWV 248/IV/36 & 42). Bach scored BWV 213/1; 1046/1, 3, 4, 7; and BWV 1071 for the same instrument. BWV 232/10 requires a 'corno da caccia' in D (only 7 ft. long.) This also is not a horn.

The sound of this instrument, which looks more like a horn because it has a similar wound form, is described as darker than the tromba which has a narrower, more 'slender' tone, that is brighter, but not as dark, soft and full as that of the 'corno.' The 'corno da caccia' lies between the extremes of 'tromba' and 'corno.' Mattheson pointed out the extremes as follows: the 'tromba' is coarse and difficult to play with a sound that borders on 'screaming' in the clarino range, while the 'corno' can be played with greater ease ('Facilité') and sounds 'thicker' which makes them useful in 'filling out' (playing 'colla parte') in sacred music.

In Bach's time, musicians like Gottfried Reiche could play all the brass instruments. Only once, in a secular cantata, did Bach have trombae and corni play simultaneously.

Eric Bergerud wrote (December 22, 2004):
[To Uri Golomb] Wish I could have heard the performance. I've had really good luck with recordings from Israel and don't doubt they put on a good show. Funny, I've never thought of the Oratorio as being long. It times at about 2 hours 30 minutes (Gardiner saves about 12 minutes as you might think.) Almost identical to the Messiah. I often listen to it in one gulp. I would think that the Matthew Passion would be a long session, although it times out at only about an extra 15 minutes. Maybe the mind plays tricks: the Xmas Oratorio is one two CDs, the Passion on three. Or maybe I just like the Oratorio better. Never seen it live: some day.

Uri Golomb wrote (December 22, 2004):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote: < How big was the Orchestra? How many performers per instrument?
Again, there is a reason for asking. If it is like it is in most modern performances, there are way too many performers per instrument when compared to contemporary practices in Bach's day. For insteance, where there would only be two Violi(one playing the Violin I part, the other the Violin II part), there would be ten playing the Violin I part and ten playing the Violin II part. >
Since the performance was on modern instruments, the intention obviously wasn't to reconstruct Bach's original practice in each and every parameter. The program notes list all members of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra (e.g., 12 first violinists) -- but I'm sure only some of these members actually took part in the concert. Trying to guess from memory (not a reliable procedure, I admit), I think there were no more othan six players in each violin section, and maybe about four violas. There were definitely only two cellists, and I think one double-bass. But please remember these are estimates from memory, and I could be wrong. Anyway -- it was not a full symphony orchestra, but probably a bit larger than most period-instrument orchestras. (One should also remember that Henry Crown is quite a large hall).

The choir members were not listed, but I'm guessing there were no more than five singers to each part. The soloists did not sing in the choruses, as far as I could tell.

Uri Golomb wrote (December 22, 2004):
Bob Henderson wrote: < I though that Shreier had retired long ago. Its so good to hear that he is not only alive but very active. >
According to the entry on Schreier in Grove Online (by Alan Blyth), Schreier retired from operatic singing in 1999, but continues to perform Lieder recitals, as well as being active as a conductor. Before this concert, the last time I heard him live was in 2000, when he sang the Evangelist in the SMP in a performance conducted by Andras Schiff. He had more vocal difficulties then -- the SMP Evangelist has a more taxing part, with much longer passages and fewer pauses for rest -- but he was still in superb form.

Johan van Veen wrote (December 22, 2004):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote: < So, in essence any production (whether live or recorded) which puts them all on one day is going against Bach's intentions. >
So is any performance which presents Bach's sacred cantatas outside a liturgical setting. But that is a compromise we have to live with.

As much as I sympathise with the feeling that the cantatas of the Christmas Oratorio should be performed at - for example - two different concerts, I think this suggestion isn't very practical. There are not that many people who will attend two performances at a stretch, especially when there are other concerts to attend at the time before Christmas (ay least, that's how things are over here). An alternative would be a second performance between Christmas and New Year, but I don't think this will work either. Since most people associate the Christmas Oratorio exclusively with the actual Christmas days and have no idea about the liturgical position of New Year in Bach's days, nor with Epiphany, I don't think that many people are going to attend a performance of - say - the cantatas 4 to 6 somewhere around New Year. But it would be an interesting experiment.

John Pike wrote (December 22, 2004):
[To Uri Golomb] Wish I had been there.

In this country, we are overwhelmed with performances of Messiah at this time of year (another work I love) and the XMO is less frequently performed, whereas in Germany, which we visit at least once in December, the XMO is on everywhere, especially in Berlin.

I used to love the weekly performances of a Bach Cantata in the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedaechtniskirche in the centre of Berlin (next to the ruins of the original church, partially destroyed by allied bombs). Every year, they have the XMO, spread over 2 concerts, as Uri suggested. Personally, i love it so much, I could easily listen to it all the way through several times a day. In previous years, I have prepared for Xmas by listening to the Gardiner recording (many times), which I think is excellent. A few months ago, I picked up the Herreweghe recording on the budget Virgin label and have listened to it a lot this month. I greatly enjoy it, though I still prefer Gardiner, which I think has a greater sense of energy and joy. Nevertheless, Herreweghe brings out many lines that I don't always here so well in the Gardiner recording and this has been something of a revelation.

I was given a recording of the XMO as a present last year, with the Thomaner Chor and DFD, which I have not listened to yet.
I'd be interested to hear views on any of these three recordings.

Charles Francis wrote (December 22, 2004):
John Pike wrote: < Wish I had been there. In this country, we are overwhelmed with performances of Messiah at this time of year (another work I love) and the XMO is less frequently performed, whereas in Germany, which we visit at least once in December, the XMO is on everywhere, especially in Berlin. >
Switzlerand is like Germany in that regard - no Messiah, but many XMO performances to choose from. But will Palestine follow the continental model? This year an XMO with chorales in Arabic performed in Ramallah, Bethlehem and East Jerusalem!
http://www.thisweekinpalestine.com/details.php?id=1189&ed=97
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/516550.html

Bradley Lehman wrote (December 22, 2004):
Corno da caccia

[To Thomas Braatz] Rather than just guessing what a (modern) corno da caccia sounds like, listen to Ludwig Güttler's recordings. He has used one in his Brandenburg 2, and in a Christmas disc of Bach's (and other) chorale preludes with various organists. Also, in his recording of cantatas BWV 143/BWV 14/BWV 51 conducted by Rotzsch and Pommer. I'm fond of that warm, mellow sound in all of these discs.

Clarification: in that cantata BWV 143 recording they use three of these corni da caccia together. In cantata BWV 14 there's one. In cantata BWV 51 Güttler plays his normal modern trumpet, by contrast.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Corno da caccia in Bach's Vocal Works [General Topics]

Uri Golomb wrote (December 22, 2004):
The concert lasted just over three hours -- including an intermission, which I think lasted about 20 minutes. I think the SMP is a bit longer (depending on the performance, of course), but I never thought of it as being too long. Then again, Bach did plan the Passion for a single performance (the whole thing was done within the Vespers for Good Friday, with a sermon between Part One and Part Two). There is greater variety and depth in the SMP, so it sustains its length better. And, as I said, I did enjoy the complete XO concert as well, despite my reservations.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (December 23, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Actually, it is a Horn instrument. "Corno" is "Horn" in Italian. "Tromba" is the Italian for "Trumpet". The so-called "Hunting" (or "Natural" or "Wood") "Horn" was a Horn without valves, pitched and written the same was as the modern French Horn or Horn in F. The "Hunting Horn" (Corno da caccia) came in any shape and size--from straight, long sheets of metal or wood, to those curled, valveless Horns so often depicted in pictures of the Hunt.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (December 23, 2004):
[To Uri Golomb] The point was, however, that it did not matter what type of instruments were used (although it might have been interesting to hear them play on said instruments), the number of players were more than was required (except for the Violone). Even Richter admitted to using modern instruments, but the result was the same. Size (at least to me in the instance of performing pre-1850s or Brahmsian music) does matter. It colors all aspects of a performance. If one was to look at the practice of Bach's day when performing his music, one would hear a decided difference in the overall effect of a performance. This is one of the reasons why (with the stipulations I mentioned in the post I wrote about it) I like the Hermann Maxrecording of the 1749 version of the Johannespassion. Whilst it could have used some more voices in the Choir and a few less instrumentalists, the overall effect was truer to the music. The sound is much thinner than that of a full-blown modern Philharmonic performance, with its overblown number of instrumentalists and Choristers.

I would also probably believe what I read more. Oftentimes, what one hears (especially in such a big facility as an Orchestral auditorium) is deceiving when compared to the actual numbers. In order to really gauge the actual numbers of performers, one would have to be either in the "Pit" or so close to the stage that he/she could see all the performers. To do this usually (at least it has been my experience) involves a lot of that green and black colored paper that fills one's wallet--that thing we call money. If only members of an Orchestra are used, it has been my experience that somewhere in the program they would list what members were performing what parts, as well as the total membership of the Orchestra and Choir. So it would logically follow that if there is no such breakdown in the program, the total membership was used, with some performers playing solo roles.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (December 23, 2004):
[To Uri Golomb] He is also often invited to perform as a soloist at the Thomaskirche
zu Leipzig (Bach's principal church during his Leipzig tenure).

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (December 23, 2004):
[To Johan van Veen] Practically, yes. The point that I was making, though, was that even two days is going against the intentions of the work. The six Kantaten, to be true to the music, should be performed/recorded on six days. BTW, this is the way it is performed by the Thomanerchor Leipzig at the Thomaskirche. Kantate I is performed on Christmas Day, Kantate II on 26 December, Kantate III on 27 December, Kantate IV on 1 January, Kantate V on the Sunday following it, and Kantate VI on 6 January. This is in keeping with the intentions of the work, for (except for Kantate III, which does not deal with John 1 [the Gospel text often read on 27 December--St. John the Evangelist's Day]), all the others follow the Gospel readings of their respective days.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (December 23, 2004):
Gardiner and Herreweghe's XMOs (was Schreier's Christmas Oratorio -- live)

[To John Pike] Not just in Berlin, but also in Bach's city--Leipzig.

Also, your example of Händel's Messiah is another case of a musical work taken out of context. Messiach is not a Christmas work at all. Even its debut was not on Christmas. It is an Easter work, and was debuted on Easter 1742 in Dublin, Ireland.

Eric Bergerud wrote (December 23, 2004):
[To John Pike] I have Gardiner's XO and also like it a lot. On the theory that any neat works needs more than one performance when possible, I bought a budget release recorded by the Sixteen Choir and Orchestra with Harry Christophers. Just listened to it for the first time. Lots of pep, the organ is very prominent and it sounds like everyone had a good time. Adult singers of course, but you can't have everything.

Eric Bergerud wrote (December 23, 2004):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] As I understand it after a slow start the Messiah took the UK by storm and it became associated with Christmas in the 18th Century. In addition, in contrast with Handel's other religious oratorios, Messiah was increasingly played in churches big and small instead of concert halls: the work was viewed, from an early period, in other words, as more religious than dramatic. As the text covers both Testaments, I don't see that there is anything in it that ties the work specifically to any holiday at all. Prophesy, birth, ministry, passion, resurrection and salvation all are touched upon. Unless Hogwood missed something in his bio of Handel, the location and timing of the premier was more or less happenstance. (Handel brought the Messiah itself as something of a surprise to Dublin and performed it with whatever forces could be gathered. The initial reaction was favorable nevertheless.) In any case, I think the spirit of the work which is so affirmative, almost festive, fits Christmas better than the Easter of the 18th Century, an observance that carried with it a somber note and great weight. In any case, the British seemed to think so. In any case, the tradition is so old and well entrenched that I think it a little sour to knock it.

John Pike wrote (December 23, 2004):
[To Eric Bergerud] Indeed. it fits Xmas very well. He wrote it in only 23 days.....like most Bach, another case of divine intervention, IMHO.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (December 24, 2004):
[To Eric Bergerud] Actually, the whole context of the work points to Easter, at which time it is performed in Britain, and at which time Haendel himself performed it. The whole message is not the birth of Christ, but rather of redemption and resurrection. This is the message of Easter, *not* Christmas. It is true that Part I deals with the birth of Christ, but even there, the message of redemption is kept up, especially if one looks at the whole of the texts used. In fact, it could be argued that Part I has many parts in its text that have no place at all in the work. For example, the first three numbers after the Ouverture ("Comfort ye, my people", "Every valley shall be exalted", and "And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed") do not at all deal with the coming of the Messiah. They are taken from the first few verses of Isaiah XL, and have been identified as being the foretelling of the coming of John the Baptizer. Even Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John use a paraphrase from this in their Gospels: "The voice of him that crieth in the Wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord; make straight in the Desert a Highway for our God". The message of Part I is the coming of and beginning of our redemption. The message of Part II is the fulfillment of our redemption with the death and resurrection of the Christos. The message of Part III is the general resurrection of
the dead at the Last Judgement and the granting of eternal life to the Elect and the faithful throughout the world.

Therefore, this is truly an Easter message, not a Christmas message, since our redemption had not been won as of yet, for Christ had not died for all our sins.

John Pike wrote (December 24, 2004):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] In the UK, Messiah is performed far more at Christmas than Passiontide/Easter, though you will still find performances at Easter. There are usually plenty of performances of the Bach passions on before Good Friday.

I disagree about your understanding of the piece. It think it is about the whole Jesus story, from the prophecy of his coming, to birth, death, resurrection and significance of all these events. It is therefore entirely appropriate that it is performed at all and any time of the year. I do not think that the early numbers you mention refer to John the Baptist, but most definitely to Jesus.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (December 25, 2004):
[To John Pike] That would possibly be true of Parts I and II, but Part III deals with the general resurrection. After all, look at the text that it primarily draws from (I Corinthians 15). This does not at all deal with Jesus, but rather of the Last Judgement and the resurrection of the dead. Therefore, the theme of the *entire* work is not of the Christmas story, but rather of redemption and resurrection. Part I deals with the beginning of our redemption in the birth of the Christos. Part II deals with the fulfillment of our redemption with His death and Resurrection. Part III deals with the resurrection of the dead and the entry of the Elect and the faithful into the Heavenly Kingdom.

Eric Bergerud wrote (December 26, 2004):
As Mr. Lebut himself describes the Messiah covers the entire story of the Christ from prophesy to judgement. In theological terms no part of the story of Jesus has any significance without the resurrection and judgement of the dead. The crucifixtion and resurrection of Jesus himself is only one part along a longer road. Handel positioned it as such in the Messiah. Thus I hold to my oripoint. There is nothing in the Messiah that would connect it directly to any Christian holiday - it celebrates the wholeness of Christ's life and meaning to humanity. (The comparison with a Bach Passion is quite dramatic - they are fixed specifically to the culminating moment of Christ's ministry on earth.) If the British and later Americans chose to associate it by tradition with Christmas they violate nothing existing in the score of Handel's work. As earlier noted, to my ears the work's impact fits Christmas better than it would have fit Easter as celebrated by Christians in the late 18th or early 19th Century. Thus to me the tradition makes much sense. And it has become a tradition. That's not such a bad thing, particularly in a Western world that is, for the moment at least, traveling down a secular road.

John Pike wrote (December 29, 2004):
[To Eric Bergerud] I strongly agree with all this. The more it (and indeed any sacred work) is performed the better.

Neil Mason wrote (January 5, 2005):
[To Uri Golomb] I had the pleasure of attending Schreier's Christmas Oratorio performance at St John's Smith Square London in Jan 2004.

I had previously conducted and sung the role of Evangelist in a performance in my home town of Brisbane Australia and I was keen to see the logistics of the performance (as so well described by you) as I had had some difficulty with this, particularly facing away from the audience to conduct from a full score in German and then face the audience to sing from a vocal score (in English).

Of course Schreier sang in German as I would have expected, but he solved any score problems by conducting and singing the whole performance from memory!!!

Like you I was most impressed with his singing, and his conducting was more than competent. It was an excellent performance overall.

Thank you for your posting. It has helped me recall a most pleasant experience.

(Apologies for the delay - I am a little behind in my email reading!)


Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248: Details
Recordings: Until 1960 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | Individual Movements
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
Systematic Discussions:
Cantata 1 | Cantata 2 | Cantata 3 | Cantata 4 | Cantata 5 | Cantata 6 | Part 7: Summary
Individual Recordings:
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
Articles:
A Bottomless Bucket of Bach – Christmas Oratorio (by Donald Satz)


Peter Schreier: Short Biography | Kammerorchester Berlin
Recordings:
Part 1 | Part 2 | General Discussions | Interview with Schreier [Are Söholt]
Individual Recordings:
BWV 232 – Schreier | BWV 245 – Schreier | BWV 248 - Schreier
Table of recordings by BWV Number

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 7, 2005 ý11:18:27