Helmuth Rilling is an excellent conductor and interpreter of Bach's sacred music. Recorded from 1969 to 1985, over a longer period of time than most other sets, there is a lot of change throughout the series. Rilling's recordings are more dense and lush than others, and his tempi are often slower than HIP recordings - no "original instruments" for Rilling. But he creates such a detailed sound-world that any fan of these works should want to hear Rilling's versions to compare with others. This said, Rilling often uses a technique that I find a bit disturbing. He'll have one instrument or group of instruments sequestered to one track, and others on the other track, giving a sound similar to that of early Beatles' stereo mixes, where vocals were on one track and instruments on the other. This is something you never hear in live performance; while one instrument may be on one side, you still hear it on the other side. This tends to make some of the movements sound as though there's no blend among the singers and musicians.(Kirk McElhearn)
Blegen’s technically flawless and musically peerless rendition is a pure celebration of beautiful singing and of the wonder of Mozart’s dazzling masterpiece. The sound is as clear and immediate as if it had been recorded yesterday, and Pinchas Zukerman’s direction is exemplary. … Although Helmut Rilling’s tempos are sometimes too plodding (the opening Introitus, for example), he makes up for it elsewhere–in an emphatic Recordare and smoothly flowing Benedictus. And while the chorus has a somewhat saturated, conglomerate sound, its impact is nevertheless substantial, not only in the fullest, loudest sections, but also in the quieter passages, which come off as more evenly balanced. Soloists, on the other hand, are absolutely clear if perhaps just a bit too up-front, and the orchestra, which fares well overall, gets swallowed in the mix when the entire chorus is singing. Rilling requires keen articulation from his players and singers, which although normally a good thing sometimes (as in the opening of the Confutatis) seems overly deliberate and stifles the music’s natural momentum. However, if you’re looking for a good, basic reading of the traditional edition of the Requiem–and an unrivalled performance of the Exsultate, jubilate –you won’t go wrong with this decently remastered release. (David Vernier)
No composer looms over modern jazz quite like Johann Sebastian Bach, whose harmonic rigour seems to have provided the basis for bebop and all that followed. Listen to the endlessly mutating semiquavers tumbling from Charlie Parker’s saxophone and it could be the top line of a Bach fantasia; the jolting cycle of chords in John Coltrane’s Giant Steps could come straight from a Bach fugue and Bach’s contrapuntal techniques crop up in countless jazz pianists, from Bill Evans to Nina Simone. Bach certainly casts a long shadow over US pianist Brad Mehldau: even when he’s gently mutilating pieces by Radiohead, Nick Drake or the Beatles, he sounds like Glenn Gould ripping into the Goldberg Variations. Which is why it comes as no surprise to see Mehldau recording an entire album inspired by Bach. However, this is not a jazz album. Instead of riffing on Bach themes, as the likes of Jacques Loussier or the Modern Jazz Quartet have done in the past, After Bach sees Mehldau using Bach’s methodology. Mehldau plays five of Bach’s canonic 48 Preludes and Fugues, each followed by his own modern 21st-century response.
There are many, many good things about Andrew Parrott and the Taverner Consort and Players' Bach performances – their luminous colors, complete clarity, utter lucidity, and structural integrity – that there is an uneasy feeling in criticizing them for their occasional flaws. When Parrott's Bach is good, it is as great as any that has been recorded in the past 20 years. It's as great as Leonhardt's, Koopman's, or Herreweghe's, and far better than Gardiner's, Harnoncourt's, or Rilling's. And Parrott's Bach is so great in the great pieces – so great in the overwhelming dramatic intensity of the close of his Saint John Passion and so great in the mystery, agony, and ecstasy of the central choral triptych in his Mass in B minor – that his performances seem very, very great indeed.(James Leonard)
Deus Passus is one quarter of the Passion Project 2000, which celebrated not only the turning of the millennium but also commemorated the 250th anniversary of Bach’s death. German conductor Helmuth Rilling honored this occasion by commissioning Passions from four disparate composers: Wolfgang Rihm, Tan Dun, Sofia Gubaidulina, and Osvaldo Golijov. Deus Passus is a setting of the Passion according to St. Luke, and it is a marvel of a piece for many reasons. For a full hour and a half, with music that is mostly slow and largely atonal (in the sense that Berg’s music is atonal), the twisting, aching, unpredictable harmonies are totally captivating. Rihm chooses a straightforward setting, a simple, dramatic telling of the story, and it is in his capacity for restraint that the true brilliance of the piece lies. He uses the chorus sparingly, mostly for dramatic purposes, having it portray the angry rabble bent on crucifying Jesus (as it often does in Bach’s passions).
"Helmuth Rilling realisiert die stilistische Spannweite der Chöre vom nazarenischen a cappella über impressionistische Koloristik, einem fast Brahms'schen Sentiment, bis zur dramatischen Wucht vollkommen."~FonoForum
When it came to writing Passions, C. P. E. Bach was certainly far more prolific than his father, whose St. Matthew is by far and away the model against which all others are currently measured. He wrote 21 of these, or rather, he wrote bits and pieces of each one, the rest of which was cobbled together from works by his contemporaries and even his father. These were apparently required for the Easter season in Hamburg, and even his predecessor, Telemann, was obligated to write copious numbers of Passions as part of his employment in that city. When this recording was made in 1994, the only surviving work seemed to be a St. Mark Passion that existed in a score in Cologne, which was remarkable in that it seemed to be an original independent work that belied the knowledge that Bach had in fact written his Passions as pastiches.
FANFARE: Bertil van Boer