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Bach cantatas; Suzuki

Discussion in 'classical' started by tones, Aug 29, 2017.

  1. tones

    tones Tones deaf

    I see the full set has now become available:


    Although I went for the Gardiner complete set (mainly on price grounds) to augment the Rilling and Leusink sets I already had, I have many of the Suzuki albums, and they are also excellent. One really needs several sets of cantatas, because no one conductor ever gets it "right" to one's particular predilections - I find that I still prefer versions of the old Werner partial set recorded for Erato in the 1960s, and nobody in my opinion has ever been able to top these particular arias made by Rilling:



    Rilling really makes them dance.

    Anyway, if I were a rich man (ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum), I'd buy this set too. Darn this poverty business...
  2. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

    I find the Gardiner set marginally preferable to Suzuki overall. The live performances lend a bit of energy and imperfection to the proceedings. The Suzuki set is sometimes almost too good to be true, if that is possible. For some insane reason, I also got the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt set when it was available as a clearance item years ago, and the somewhat rougher playing is fine, but the use of boy sopranos grates my nerves.

    At this point, I find myself most attracted to OVPP performances, specifically in the form of Eric Milnes' ongoing cycle on Atma. I love the lightness and clarity. He's up to volume seven. If his intention is to do a complete set, he'll be done in about forty years.
  3. tones

    tones Tones deaf

    Be patient - Rilling started recording cantatas without any serious intent of recording them all, yet that is what he did after about 20 years.

    Never could get on with OVPP - to me, the wonderful Bach chorales need a bit of oomph. I tried a CD of Joshua Rifkin's and couldn't give it away quickly enough - to a guy who absolutely loved it. If we all liked the same thing, it would be a dull old world.
  4. George J

    George J pfm Member

    I have the Brilliant Classics complete Bach Edition, and this contains a very fine set of the religious cantatas, but I am far less convinced by the secular cantatas!

    No idea who the performers are, but it is currently proving a very happy musical hunting ground for me, and my favourites - such as the Actus Trajicus - are well covered with fine small mixed choir and excellent soloists!

    Any recos for the secular cantatas with mixed voice small choir and period instruments?

    Best wishes from George
  5. tones

    tones Tones deaf

    Hello, George, I think that the Brilliant Classics sacred cantatas were done by Pieter Jan Leusink and his Dutch ensembles. Leusink recorded the lot at breakneck speed - 15 months, so only slightly longer than Gardiner in his cantata pilgrimage year. There are some fine performances in there. A lot of the soprano solo work is done by Ruth Holton, who is or was a member of Gardiner's Monteverdis - she has a boyish sort of voice, so perhaps closer than usual to the sort of voice that Bach would have known.

    One slightly negative thing is that Leusink chose to record only those cantatas that were 100% Bach, so the marvellous BWV190 New Year cantata was omitted, because only the vocal parts of the opening chorale survive (Gardiner and others use an added instrumentation, which, to me, sounds completely appropriate).

    No recommendations for the secular cantatas I'm afraid. I have the Rilling versions, but nothing really with which to compare them.
  6. George J

    George J pfm Member

    Dear Tones,

    Yes you are right about the performances, amd ruth holton is first rate in my opinion. Of course we tend to forget that Anna Magdalena Bach was a superb singer whom Bach would love to have had the chance to employ in the Church music, but of course the Church was an all male affair, so we are stuck with the Church view rather than Bach’s about employing adult ladies for soprano and alto duties!

    But I believe that the music does actually emerge more fully with adult ladies in the soprano and alto lines rather than boys, not least because these people have gained maturity of mind, rather than being children. Ruth Holton is not so much boyish in timbre as much as singing with a very pure line without wide and wobbling vibrato.

    Another of this type was the great Isobel Bailey. And she sung the solo soprano music in the famous Reginald Jacques recording of the Saint Matthew Passion made over two years in 1947 and 1948 for Decca. One of the two bass players in the orchestra was a good friend of mine, and lived to be over 90. I shared a double bass music stand with him on many occasions. He retired as Principle Double-bass in the Royal Opera House aged 69. It was after his retirement that I was so lucky to play beside him so many times, and even on occasion with me leading and he turning the pages. That is a strange place to find one’s self!

    I am a real admirer of really good female singing.


    I can never imagine two boys managing this quite so wonderfully!

    ATB from George
  7. tones

    tones Tones deaf


    Thanks, George, toe-curlingly gorgeous. To me, the fact that Bach would not have heard it this way matters not at all - I suspect that, once he'd got used to the concept of female choristers, he'd have loved it.
  8. George J

    George J pfm Member

    Dear tones,

    Here is one of the very most comforting arias Bach ever composed - Mache dich mein herze rein - Walter Berry - Mogens Wöldike ...

    Walter Berry in what I think is the best of his many efforts [all wonderful] on records with the great Danish conductor Mogens Wöldike - recorded in Vienna in 1959. [Vienna State Opera forces, reduced to Baroque proportions].


    Play from 51 minutes, and find something transcendental in its spirituallity, and humane humility!

    ATB from George
  9. clogman

    clogman pfm Member

    Surprised nobody's mentioned Ton Koopman yet!
    Love the somewhat earthier approach he takes. Feels more natural with German texts (well, for a Dutchman born just across the border anyway!)

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