Conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt. A fantastic concert celebrating the coming of Christmas, recorded live at one of Austria's finest baroque monasteries. Soloists are Christine Schafer, Anna Korondi, Bernarda Fink, Ian Bostridge, Christopher Maltman. With the Concentus Musicus Vienna and the Arnold Schoenberg Choir.
Filmed in the architectural splendour of Graz's Gothic-Baroque cathedral, leading Bach authority Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducts the famed Tölz Boys Choir and his Vienna Concentus Musicus, playing on period instruments, in the most dramatic of all Passion settings. "In this performance we have attempted to realize Bach's wishes in the most authentic manner possible" (Nikolaus Harnoncourt). "A unique occasion" (Kurier).
Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, named after their dedicatee the Margrave Christian Ludwig von Brandenburg, have been part of Nikolaus Harnoncourt's permanent repertoire ever since he founded his Concentus musicus ensemble. The ensemble has recorded them and played them on their tours throughout the world.
Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Gustav Leonhardt were at the forefront of the early music movement that swept classical music in the '70s and '80s, performing pieces from the canon with period instruments in order to re-create the original intent of the composer as closely as possible. And their most enduring legacy is right here, the complete survey of Bach's sacred cantatas that they began in 1971 and completed in 1988.
Although conductors invariably include the six great motets of Bach (BWV225-230) in recordings of these works, they seldom if ever seem to agree which if any other of Bach's motets to perform with them. John Eliot Gardiner very sensibly goes for the lot, adding Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren (BWV231) and the little-known Der Gerechte kommt um which does not even have the benefit of a Schmieder number. As well as these, Gardiner also includes two short pieces which belong, at least nominally, to the cantata category, BWV50 and BWV118. In the case of the latter there is much justification for doing so for it's a single movement choral piece in motet style written for a funeral in about 1736 and revised for a performance around 1740. Here we have what sounds to me like a compromise; in other words the horns, cornetto and sackbuts of the first version (possibly intended for an open air occasion), with the strings and woodwind of the second. This may be explained in the texts, none of which has been included with my review copy…
"First integral of the cantatas of Bach on period instruments. In memory of Gustav Leonhardt."