Bach's Christmas Oratorio

Discussion in 'Classical Music' started by Sir Galahad, Dec 26, 2004.

  1. Sir Galahad

    Sir Galahad Harmonia Mundi

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    I listened to the Christmas Oratorio yesterday. All I have is Harnoncourt's, which AFIK was the only version available in the early days of CD.

    I had forgotten how off-key the Concentus Musicus are, first violin at times and especially the trumpets. I do realize the baroque trumpet must be terribly difficult to play, but the result here is plain awful.

    Fortunately there are good things to it too, such as in the fourth part, a beautiful soprano aria with echo.

    Has anyone a suggestion for a really good version of the Xmas Oratorio ?

    Thanks
     
    Sir Galahad, Dec 26, 2004
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  2. Sir Galahad

    eisenach

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    Funny, I've just come to the computer after listening to Parts 1 & 2. I've got several versions: Karl Richter on LP, an old DDR recording on cassette by Peter Schreier - I think it was issued in the West by Philips - , Pickett and the New London Cosort on Decca CD, Gardiner from the Herderkirche in Weimar on DVD, but my own favourite, and the one I always end up returning to is the version on Deutsch Harmonia Mundi by Gerhardt Schmidt-Gaden, with the Collegium Aureum and the Tölzer Knabenchor. The boys' voices are superb, the whole thing on original instruments goes with a swing, very much in Harnoncourt's style, but the instrumental intonation is fine, the whole thing feeling alive but secure.
    I bought it in the days when DHM was distributed by EMI - I assume it's still available. DHM is now part of the BMG stable.
     
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    eisenach, Dec 26, 2004
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  3. Sir Galahad

    tones compulsive cantater

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    My contribution:

    https://www.audio-forums.com/as-rediect/showthread.php?t=41&highlight=oratorio

    Unlike my learned friend Eisenach, I never could stand Nicky H's version, which always sounded (to me) not only not particularly well performed but also as if it were recorded in Nicky's garden shed. I have quite a few versions, but to me the two Gardiners are the cream of the crop.

    Forgot to add, never have heard the Tölzer version, so can't comment, but in general I don't like boy sopranos.
     
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    tones, Dec 26, 2004
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  4. Sir Galahad

    Sir Galahad Harmonia Mundi

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    I am (or should I say used to be) familiar with Richter's, as I was fed DG's Bach as a teenager, but I've not heard it in almost 40 years.

    I would go for something more modern / baroque (not mutually exclusive IMO). I'll check out Gerhardt Schmidt-Gaden after the festive dust has settled. How's the Gardiner?

    Thanks
     
    Sir Galahad, Dec 26, 2004
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  5. Sir Galahad

    Sir Galahad Harmonia Mundi

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    I'll look at Gardiner too then.

    And as for boy sopranos, they many a time indeed sound like they are struggling with something beyond their ability, but I find that on some of Harnoncourt's cantatas, one of them (forgot the name) manages quite well.
     
    Sir Galahad, Dec 26, 2004
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  6. Sir Galahad

    tones compulsive cantater

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    The Harnoncourt version of BWV28, "Gottlob! Nun geht das Jahr zu Ende", with its first aria sung by a boy soprano solo, is one of my exceptions to a general dislike of boy sopranos.

    (One of the others is (naturally) Roy Goodman on the King's College/Willcocks classic recording of Allegri's "Miserere").
     
    tones, Dec 26, 2004
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  7. Sir Galahad

    eisenach

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    Although being a fan of the Leonhardt/Harnoncourt Cantata series and the Mathäus Passion, for the reasons Sir Galahad has mentioned, I never took to Harnoncourt's Cristmas Oratorio.
    The Schmidt-Gaden version is for me a good middle choice, as it has for the benfits of original instruments (and also for me, boys' voices) without the dogma and quirkiness of some readings.
    The Gardiners are certainly exciting - particulary the CD version (I forgot, I've got that on cassette somewhere, recorded off Radio 3 years ago, and each cantata prefaced by a Luther sermon!), but for me it all becomes a bit too slick and relentless: I admire the virtuosity and technique, but it doesn't win my heart. As for the DVD, after the first 30 minutes or so, I switch the picture off. The Herderkirche is magnficient, with it's altar-piece (I was lucky enough two years ago to go to a Bach concert there by Cantus Cölln), but after a while, I don't find that the picture adds much.
    I forgot to say, the Tölzer version was recorded in 1973, but sounds very good indeed, (apart from a strange whoosing sound about 20 seconds into the opening chorus). I've had the CDs for about 15 years, and as my system has improved, the sound from this set has just got better too - not always the case. Today, for the first time I distinctly heard the tolling of a bell or the chiming of a clock outside the Lenggries Pfarrkirche where it's recorded, just before the start of Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe. I'd never heard it before: thank you mains filtering!
     
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    eisenach, Dec 26, 2004
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  8. Sir Galahad

    Sir Galahad Harmonia Mundi

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    Actually that's what I feel most of the time when I watch a concert (regardless of music style, with the exception of some rock bands of the 70s) on TV or DVD. Maybe I'm old school, but I'm plenty happy with the music alone. And this also applies to 5:1 which IMO adds nothing but spurious. Ever heard drums coming from behind in a live concert?

    BTW, I'm expecting delivery of the complete Bach collection any day now, what's the Christmas Oratorio version worth in there ?
     
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    Sir Galahad, Dec 26, 2004
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  9. Sir Galahad

    tones compulsive cantater

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    Must confess I haven't listened to it yet! Must do so...
     
    tones, Dec 26, 2004
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  10. Sir Galahad

    tones compulsive cantater

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    Funny, I do find that it adds a lot. Stimulated by this thread, I pulled out the DVD, intending to watch just a bit, and ended up watching nearly all of it. As a non-musician, I find myself fascinated by the way that a great musician like Bach can put it all together, and I enjoy watching the various instruments and groups of instruments at work, all contributing to a remarkable whole.

    And I enjoy watching Gardiner at work, obviously having a ball. At times it can be embarrassing - I was watching on the laptop with the headphones, and when I got to the wonderful skittering chorale "Ehre sei Dir, Gott!", which starts off the fifth cantata (and which nobody, but nobody, does better than the Monteverdis), I was bouncing up and down on the chair, moaning along, conducting - and I got very peeved looks from my daughters, who were working on the computer that lives in the same room!
     
    tones, Dec 27, 2004
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  11. Sir Galahad

    tones compulsive cantater

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    Rilling's Weihnachtsoratorium

    OK, just listened to it. The Christmas Oratorio is so full of good things that it's nearly impossible to mess it up, which means that it generally becomes a matter of good and better, rather than good and bad (I'll make an exception for Nicky H., of course).

    IMHO, Rilling does a workmanlike, middle-of-the-road job, competent but never really exciting. A good version by which to get to know the work, but then to move on to something better. There's nothing really bad about it, but also nothing really good either.
     
    tones, Dec 27, 2004
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  12. Sir Galahad

    Sir Galahad Harmonia Mundi

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    Thanks Tones, I'll give it a listen as soon as the postman brings it. 170 CDs should keep me busy for a while. Problem is my family thinks I listen to too much Bach as it is ...
     
    Sir Galahad, Dec 28, 2004
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  13. Sir Galahad

    pe-zulu

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    The postman brought me the complete Bach-edition a few days ago. I own most of the CDs with non-vocal works on beforehand, and ordered it because of the vocal works.

    The non-vocal CDs range typical from the good to the very good, with some really excellent CDs (Robert Hill, Robert Levin, Kay
    Johannesen among others) and only a few less than good
    (Koroliov).

    Of the vocal CDs I have heard three by now: The first three cantatas and first half of the Christmas-oratorio and the h-minor mass. I like Rillings light style and his usually stylish phrasing, and most of the instrumental soloists are fine, but the choir is only acceptable, and even worse: The vocal soloists are for the most part horrible, with opera-like dramatizing and much vibrato (and some with very insecure intonation), to my mind very unstylish. So this is a mixed bag, but all in all really value for
    money, thanks to the instrumentalists.

    Venlig hilsen
     
    pe-zulu, Dec 29, 2004
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  14. Sir Galahad

    Sir Galahad Harmonia Mundi

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    I still haven't got mine although they e-mailed me to announce shipping on the 23rd ... :confused:

    Edited: It arrived this morning. Unfortunately the box has been handled carelessly and 7 of the plastic CD cases (the ones at the ends) are broken. The CDs are intact though.

    Since they are special cases which can contain 4 CDs, I hope Z. can send new ones. Has anyone any experience of how Z handles claims?

    Edited : Z. answered my mail right away and will send replacement cases and one missing CD. Sounds like very good service
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 30, 2004
    Sir Galahad, Dec 30, 2004
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  15. Sir Galahad

    pe-zulu

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    The edition of the Hanssler Bachausgabe, I received from JPC, is not the original Hanssler-printings, but some licenced - and just as good - printings from a Boehmian firm. The boxes are in my case intact, but i find them very
    awkward to handle, and the CDs are not sufficiently protected by handling - too big holes in the septa - so I have decided to replace the boxes with 4CD-hard-boxes from Hama. They cost around 2 Euro for four CDs that is
    ½ Euro pr. CD, expensive in relation to the cost of the CDs, but safe and practical, the CDs deserve this. I think this is better than sending a claim to Z. You are surely not the only one in that situation, and can Z handle all these claims? Given the low price and high quality of the CDs, the state of the boxes are certainly a matter of minor importance.

    Venlig hilsen
     
    pe-zulu, Dec 30, 2004
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  16. Sir Galahad

    pe-zulu

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    I didn't see your latest edition , very remarkable surely.
     
    pe-zulu, Dec 30, 2004
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  17. Sir Galahad

    Sir Galahad Harmonia Mundi

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    Pe-zulu, do you have an URL or address for these Hama cases ? I agree, the CDs deserve a good case. I also find the little daisy-shaped thingy that holds the CD in the center is very fragile. I found quite a few broken when checking the CDs.

    And I also have Teldec's complete cantatas (Harnoncourt/Leonhardt) with 2 CDs per case that take to much space on my shelves, and I need the space.
     
    Sir Galahad, Dec 30, 2004
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  18. Sir Galahad

    pe-zulu

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    Dear Sir Galahad

    I were afraid not. I aquired them through a local store, which got them from HamaDK, I think, and latest about three months ago, but I can't find them on Hamas homepage.

    But now I have found them on www.kelkoo.de.
    Go to this homepage and search:

    Hama multipack für 4 CD .

    They even have got multipacks for six CDs.

    Good luck.
     
    pe-zulu, Dec 30, 2004
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  19. Sir Galahad

    Sir Galahad Harmonia Mundi

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    Thanks, I'll take a look

    A case for six CDs sounds good too
     
    Sir Galahad, Dec 30, 2004
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  20. Sir Galahad

    Sir Galahad Harmonia Mundi

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    To all Bach Complete Collection owners :

    I was listening this afternoon to one of the Organ Works CDs. Track 18 of CD1 (Six Sonatas BWV 525-530) ends rather abruptly (as if there hadn't been enough space to record the complete track).

    Has anyone experienced the same fault?

    Thanks and Happy New Year to all

    SG
     
    Sir Galahad, Dec 31, 2004
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