This disc is a far cry from the typical fare we’ve come to expect on the shelves around the Christmas season. The inclusion of Bach’s sublime Cantata 63 and Mendelssohn’s Vom Himmel hoch give the disc a year round appeal. Vaughan Williams’ joyful The First Nowell is a veritable feast of well loved carols and the London Philharmonic Choir together with soloists Lisa Milne and Christopher Maltman exude Christmas cheer.
"It is…a fine pairing of two of Bach’s more extroverted works, in which Herreweghe delves beneath the masculine surface of the Magnificat to find its more tender interior and boldly explores Bach’s expansion of Luther’s great Reformation hymn, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. For whatever reason, Cantata 80 seems to have lost a degree of popularity lately, and it’s good to hear it again, complete with W. F. Bach’s interpolated trumpets."– George Chien
Another entry in Harmonia Mundi's ongoing Bach Edition, this recording from 1993 exemplifies both the consistently high standard of performance we've come to expect from Philippe Herreweghe and his Collegium Vocale and the astonishing musical variety and emotional/spiritual depth of Bach's vocal works. As usual in this series, the program reflects a theme, in this case the feast of Ascension, for which Bach wrote what proved to be his final oratorio (improperly catalogued as a cantata in the original edition of Bach's works) and at least three cantatas. The oratorio contains both original music and, as has recently been shown, several movements taken from cantatas no longer extant. It's a compelling and inexplicably underperformed work, far shorter than Bach's other oratorios, complete with some terrific orchestral music, two wonderful festive choruses, a tenor Evangelist narrator, a charming little duet for tenor and bass, and arias for soprano and alto.
This is an enjoyable, somehow spontaneous recording of several of Bach's works for a pair of harpsichords, with the great Japanese Bach conductor Masaaki Suzuki joined by his son Masato. The high spirits of the elder Suzuki here could be chalked up to any combination of several factors. One might be freedom from the rigors of his complete Bach cantata cycle, just recently completed when this album appeared in 2014.
"The Scholl/Herreweghe CD is distinguished by its marriage of beautiful sound and expressive intensity. The richly nuanced orchestral playing remains forceful throughout and Scholl imbues his beguiling voice with a fervent conviction…"– BBC Music Magazine
"Kooy must by now have appeared in more Bach cantata recordings than any other solo singer in history, and even in 1991 when these recordings were made he was an experienced Bach singer of immense authority. His performances of these soul-searching, inward-looking works are stamped with a level of technical command and sensitivity that renders more obvious gesture superfluous. This is masterly and utterly compelling singing."– Brian Robins
Bach is often credited with having invented the keyboard concerto, despite the fact that all of his works in the mode were arrangements of existing concertos for other instruments. Furthermore, whatever influence they may have had was indirect. It’s unlikely that either Haydn or Mozart had heard any of this music or even knew of its existence. But Haydn may have encountered the keyboard concertos of Carl Philippe Emanuel, and Mozart knew Johann Christian’s works in the genre. Nevertheless the elder Bach’s concertos, whether played on a harpsichord, or on a piano, retain a revered place in the keyboard literature. Many listeners will remember the veteran Baroque specialist, Bob van Asperen, from his collaboration with Gustav Leonhardt in the Teldec Bach cantata series. Here he plays the solo concertos with expected grace and fluidity, accompanied by Melante Amsterdam, which is basically an expanded period-instruments string quartet. The performances have a chamber-like intimacy, which is especially attractive, for example, in the famous Largo of the F-Minor concerto (BWV 1056). The recording, dating back to 1993, sounds brand new.(George Chien)
GRAMOPHONE AWARD WINNER 2015 - BAROQUE INSTRUMENTAL RECORDING OF THE YEAR. This recording is the first time that the five-stringed Amati has been used to record the 6th suite and it is the only original five-string cello in existence in the UK and unique in being the only one by this maker. The Cello Suites are performed on two gut-string cellos Suite Nos. 1-5 on a Francesco Ruggieri from 1660 and Suite No. 6 the five-stringed Cremona cello by A. & H. Amati from c.1600, both tuned to Baroque pitch. Bachs cello suites are renowned as the pinnacle of the instruments repertoire and are performed here in period performances by the internationally acclaimed cellist, David Watkin. David Watkin has been performing Bachs Cello Suites in concert for 35 years, and Bachs unaccompanied cello repertoire has taken him all over Europe, from the Palace of Frederick the Great at Potsdam to the Prague Spring Festival, and, as part of Sir John Eliot Gardiner's Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, included performances sitting by the font in which Bach was baptised.