"I know of few more engaging first movements of No. 3 and not one version of No. 6 which so lovingly draws the listener into the secret motivic associations of this most marvellous of consort pieces…." ~Grammophone
…It was unusual for composers working in the Lutheran tradition to compose a Missa tota and Bach's motivations remain a matter of scholarly debate. The Mass was never performed in totality during Bach's lifetime; the first documented complete performance took place in 1859. Since the nineteenth century it has been widely hailed as one of the greatest compositions in history, and today it is frequently performed and recorded…
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.
For Roy Goodman's various roles in the project assume Toad-like proportions. Founder of the Brandenburg Consort, Goodman is not at all content merely to direct these performances but also plays solo violin, violino piccolo and viola as well as penning lively accompanying notes. Well, readers may rest assured that I'm no Badger and am inclined to applaud Goodman's diversity of talent rather than otherwise.
Nikolaus Harnoncourt and his period orchestra, Concentus Musicus Wien, never recorded a complete cycle of the symphonies of Ludwig van Beethoven, and this 2016 Sony release is their only recording of the Symphony No. 4 in B flat major and the Symphony No. 5 in C minor, made almost ten months before the conductor's death. Harnoncourt planned for this to be his last recording before his retirement, so it inevitably has the feeling of a valedictory performance, and one can also hear it as the orchestra's warm tribute to its leader and his sterling musicianship.
Because Mozart's earliest symphonies are performed less often than the later masterpieces and are consequently underrepresented on disc, Nikolaus Harnoncourt's period performances with Concentus Musicus Wien may have an added value beyond sheer musical excellence. Much has been written about how these works are miraculous manifestations of the young Mozart's genius, and their consistently high quality obviates criticism for their few shortcomings. But these symphonies really do sound magical and even startling in Harnoncourt's vital renditions, and Concentus Musicus delivers them with boisterous enthusiasm and full bow, with absolutely no precious Rococo affectations. Brisk tempi, tight ensemble playing and the clear timbres of original instruments contribute to the authenticity of the performances, but these may count less than the gusto, humor, and freshness that the musicians display in each work. The woodwinds and horns are especially robust and earthy, and Harnoncourt draws out their distinctive colors and striking rhythms to contrast them more effectively with the strings. Deutsche Harmonia Mundi's sound is immaculate, without doubt the best the label can offer, and the acoustics of Kasino Zögernitz are ideal for balance and resonance.(Blair Sanderson)
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.