The Amsterdam Bach Soloists comprise an ensemble of ten or so musicians. They play modern instruments but base their musical approach on ''an undogmatic use of authentic interpreting practice, so that the rich potentialities of the modern instruments can be combined with the baroque way of performing, which is in keeping with the accomplishments of Nikolaus Harnoncourt with the Concertgebouw Orchestra''. Most of the players are, in fact, drawn from the Concertgebouw, though there are some from Frans Bruggen's Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century. Nowadays Bach's didactic but very beautiful The Art of Fugue, is widely regarded as a work for solo harpsichord. Bach himself left no precise indication concerning instrumentation but the music was engraved in open score which places each individual voice or strand of the texture on a separate stave. This practice was not uncommon in contrapuntal keyboard works and is one of several features pointing towards the solo harpsichord as being Bach's most likely intention. Nevertheless, since 1924, when the Swiss musician Wolfgang Graeser set the canons and fugues for various combinations of instruments, the practice of performing The Art of Fugue with a mixed ensemble has remained popular.
As the mysterious opening bars of the Kyrie gradually emerge into the light, we know that this recording of Mozart’s glorious Great Mass in C minor is a special one: the tempi perfect, the unfolding drama of the choral writing so carefully judged, and, above it all, the crystalline beauty of soloist Carolyn Sampson’s soprano, floating like a ministering angel. Masaaki Suzuki’s meticulous attention to detail, so rewarding in his remarkable Bach recordings, shines throughout this disc, the playing alert, the choir responsive, the soloists thrilling. And there is the bonus of an exhilarating Exsultate, Jubilate with Sampson on top form.
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…