The sacred cantatas of J.S. Bach

Discussion in 'Classical Music' started by tones, Jun 19, 2003.

  1. tones

    pe-zulu

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    pe-zulu, Mar 7, 2007
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  2. tones

    pe-zulu

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    The two volumes of Cantates (20 CD in all) and a third volume containing the Passions, b-minor Mass, Christmas Oratory, the Motets and a few other works were released some years ago, and I used the occation to acquire them about half a year ago. Not that I have heard much of them so far - Leusink is still my object of Cantate traversal -, but what I have heard, has been uplifting (the sound is not a major quibble I think), and I much prefer Werners restrained venerational style to Richters -in my view - insistent gesticulating romantic style. And I fully agree, that the obbligati (Andre, Pierlot, Wenzinger among others) are a specially appealing feature in Werners recordings.

    Regards,
     
    pe-zulu, Mar 7, 2007
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  3. tones

    tones compulsive cantater

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    My goodness, this is wonderful, I'm actually not talking to myself! I have only a limited exposure to Richter, but that was because what I heard I didn't particularly care for. I found the readings to be very ponderous.

    Werner additionally has the advantage that hsi singers were of the plain unvarnished variety - no operatic vibrato, which generally doesn't suit the cantatas very well*. Werner may have been the first to do this.

    *Although I've never heard anyone sing "Grosser Herr und starker König" from Cantata 1 of the Christmas Oratorio better than Hermann Prey for Eugen Jochum on the old Philips set. Toe-curlingly beautiful.
     
    tones, Mar 8, 2007
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  4. tones

    pe-zulu

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    No you are not. I on my part visit the classical music board of this forum at least five times a week, and I read and appreciate everything you write.

    Yes, I think he was. This operatic approach is for me even a problem with some of Rillings Cantates (unfortunate choice of singers), offering a strong and unwanted contrast to his generally straight (if preauthentic) and light approach.
     
    pe-zulu, Mar 8, 2007
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  5. tones

    tones compulsive cantater

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    Arleen Auger (whom I think was the soprano in the vast bulk of the Rilling cantatas) generally did a good job, but some of the others were not so good. Of course, the interesting thing is that, in the vast amount of time over which the Rilling cantatas were recorded (I think it took about 17 years), performance of Bach changed dramatically. He started in the Richter era and ended in the "authentic instrument" era, and I think his later performances were influenced by the changing fashions (no harm in that naturally). But at least, like Richter and Werner, he loved and championed a truly great body of music that had been left in relative obscurity for far too long, and for that we can never be sufficiently grateful.

    It occasionally hits me anew just how great is this music. The other night, the girls were on the computer and I put on the headphones. I was listening to Gardiner's live SDG recording of BWV80 "Ein feste Burg". The brilliance of the choral writing in that first movement in the hands of the Monteverdis, the precision machine of choirs, just takes your breath away. I get goosebumps on my goosebumps.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 8, 2007
    tones, Mar 8, 2007
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  6. tones

    Sir Galahad Harmonia Mundi

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    No you are not. I read this thread every time it comes up as "new". Quite roborative indeed. Not much else happening here these days I'm afraid.

    I don't have half the musical background you gentlemen have, so I just keep quiet. I'm stuck with Teldec's complete cantatas plus a few bits and pieces here and there. I share your views on Richter I was over-exposed to in my younger days. Yet, he's probably partly responsible for my developing a taste for this kind of music.
     
    Sir Galahad, Mar 8, 2007
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  7. tones

    tones compulsive cantater

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    Aha, but, Sir G., I have zero musical background, so if you have less than half that, you have problems! Or, perhaps the same problems as I. I lack the musical sophistication of Pe-Zulu and RdS, but I like what I like and, like yourself, I enjoy reading what knowledgeable people write about such things. I got into Bach, and more particularly the cantatas, over a longish time.

    The thing that started me was a sunny Saturday afternoon in Melbourne, working under the car, with the radio playing the ABC's classical station. Out of the radio suddenly came a familiar tune, familiar from Jacques Loussier. It was the second chorus, the plainsong one, from BWV140 (known in English as "Sleepers, awake" (Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme), and one of those in which the Bach melody is better remembered than that of the original Lutheran chorale. A week later, on the ABC's new releases programme was a new King's College recording of BWV147 ("Jesu, joy of man's desiring"). I went out and bought both, and so commenced a marvellous exploratory journey that continues to this day.
     
    tones, Mar 9, 2007
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  8. tones

    Marc

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    Good day to you, all ye Bach lovers!

    I've grown very fond of the Bach cantates, and, of course, I do have my preferences, to be found particularly in the 'authentic' school.

    If I want to hear a 'protestant' approach, I choose Leonhardt/Harnoncourt.
    If I want them more 'roman-catholic', I go for Herreweghe.
    For a both 'universal' authentic and modern interpretation, I listen to Suzuki.

    But there are a lot of capable interpreters around.

    I feel that my relationship with the Bach cantates almost resembles a kind of marriage: very loving, with some little struggles now and then. :)

    Till death do us part.
     
    Marc, Apr 9, 2007
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  9. tones

    tones compulsive cantater

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    Marc, welcome aboard! Always room for another cantater! Overall, I was never fond of the Harnocourt cantatas (although there are some very good performances in there - I confess to not having heard them all, by the way). In the end, for me, it came down to Gardiner and Suzuki, both outstanding - I couldn't have both, so I had to choose and I went for Gardiner. So far, I'm very happy with my choice - but it doesn't stop me buying the occasional Suzuki! I confess I nearly fell off my chair laughing when introduced to the idea of a Japanese authentic instruments group. Not any more...
     
    tones, Apr 10, 2007
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  10. tones

    Marc

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    Yes, the Leonhardt/Harnoncourt set sometimes is far from perfect, with some 'trembling trebles' and shrill sound of the authentic instruments.
    Still, I think they provide for the most 'religious' interpretations. I mean: expressive, in a more strict protestant way. When I listen to their recordings, I can really imagine I'm attending a Lutheran service, and the 'cantata' is something like a sermon, in which the reciting elements of the music are more underlined.

    I only have a few CD's of them (f.i. the Easter Cantatas box, and a few others), but from time to time I keep thinking: shouldn't I get them all? It's a problem, and I still haven't figured that one out. But they're budget-priced now, AFAIK, which makes the purchase rather tempting.

    Nevertheless, I often want Bach to sound more melodious and tuneful. That's why I also like other interpreters very much, especially Herreweghe, who, IMHO, strikes the golden mean between 'reciting music' and 'sheer melodious beauty'.
     
    Marc, Apr 11, 2007
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  11. tones

    Rodrigo de Sá This club's crushing bore

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    I feel that many a member here would describe his relationship with Bach's music exactly in the same way. Right now I am remorsefully cheating, having a torrid affair with 16t Century music! But this is for another thread.

    Without wanting to usurp Tones' right to welcome you first, may I just say that anyone who loves Bach (even if unfaithfully) is welcome here?
     
    Rodrigo de Sá, Apr 12, 2007
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  12. tones

    Marc

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    Thank you both for the welcome!

    BTW: I'd like to add that I also like both Leonhardt's and Harnoncourt's lively rhytmic approach.
     
    Marc, Apr 16, 2007
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  13. tones

    sunnyside_up

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    I just registered on this forum so that I could post here and say thank you to tones and others for the interesting discussion.

    I've only been into the Bach cantatas for a year or so, but have loved Bach's instrumental music since I was a teenager (quite a long time now :D ). I'm collecting as many of the cantatas as I can, and as many different interpreters as I can (as money, and time to listen to them all, permits!). I hope that eventually Herreweghe will record all the cantatas but in the meantime I'm enjoying Suzuki and Gardiner very much (Koopman less so) - haven't really got into much non-HIP.

    My favourite ones are from earlier on in Bach's life - 131, 4, 21 and 161 although I can't say I dislike any!

    How lovely it would be if I could sing ::sigh::

    Hello to all!
     
    sunnyside_up, May 3, 2007
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  14. tones

    tones compulsive cantater

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    Welcome to another Oz! (I might have been born in Belfast, but I lived in Melbourne for 20 years, have an Oz passport, an Oz wife and two very large, non-Bach-loving:( Oz daughters).

    In addition, another cantater is always welcome. There may be more cantata recordings around today as there were previously, but this tremendous body of glorious music is largely ignored by the music-loving population at large. Perhaps the spiritual side makes people today uncomfortable - this is an essential part of the cantatas and their significance (as you'll have seen in Gardiner's essays in his SDG releases, he has gone very deeply into this aspect).

    We look forward to hearing more from you!
     
    tones, May 3, 2007
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  15. tones

    Marc

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    Yes, I know that feeling, but it won't happen. I've read already a dozen interviews where he stated:
    no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, NO!

    :cry:

    Main reason (if my remembrance is correct): it would take a lifetime to do it properly, and I like loads of other music and composers, too.
     
    Marc, May 3, 2007
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  16. tones

    sunnyside_up

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    Yes, now I come to think of it, I remember reading that too, but must have been mentally in denial!!!!

    Thanks for the welcome, tones!
     
    sunnyside_up, May 4, 2007
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  17. tones

    Rodrigo de Sá This club's crushing bore

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    in connection with herreweghe recording all the cantatas: I fully understand that a musician avoids recording all of something. there is always something one does not really like so, in general terms, it seems to me to be a good thing that a performer does not record everything. i think it was swjatoslav richter who said he hated 'integral' recordings. if i could play all the wtc, for instance, i might record it (should i ever be required such thing, which of course is impossible) but i confess that i find some preludes and also some fugues quite boring.

    i will go as far as to say that in most of schubert's piano sonatas, onlyt the first and second movements are really relevant (i do not mean all sonatas, of course, certainbly not the last ones).

    and i will even say that the hammerklavier sonata may be played movement by movement - indeed, that is what beethoven expected. i sometimes wonder if we do not make too much of the idea that all music comimng from a good musician is good music.

    Concerning bach's cantatas, i, too, mostly like the early ones. but then i am perhaps the worst reactionnary in this whole forum.
     
    Rodrigo de Sá, May 8, 2007
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  18. tones

    sunnyside_up

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    I've liked all the recordings of Herreweghe that I've ever heard, so I'm very sorry that he's not planning on doing a complete cantata series.

    On the brighter side, I am discovering many other interpreters to be equally as wonderful (in many different ways) and I'm widening my choices. It took me a long time to decide to buy any of the Suzuki series. I was put off by his recording of the Brandenburgs which I absolutely hated (still don't like it). But I love him in the cantatas, especially the early ones.

    Such a wealth of riches and I've only just scratched the surface!
     
    sunnyside_up, May 8, 2007
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  19. tones

    sunnyside_up

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    I've just subscribed to the rest of the John Eliot Gardiner cantata series on the Monteverdi website. I already have a few of them and their sales person has agreed to give me the 25% discount on the ones I will need to fill in the gaps!

    I'm so excited I just had to share the news!!!!:D
     
    sunnyside_up, May 24, 2007
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  20. tones

    tones compulsive cantater

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    You foolish person! (Welcome to the club). I haven't regretted it. As "live" recordings they are not perfect and Gardiner's interpretations will not always be the best, but I've generally been very happy with them. A little while back, one of the girls wanted to use the computer down where I was listening and I plugged in the headphones. I was playing BWV80 "Ein feste Burg" - and I was completely knocked out by that brilliant opening chorale and how beautifully Gardiner and the Monteverdis do the interweaving contrapuntal choral lines. (Love the rasping bass sackbut too).

    In addition, the packaging is great and I do enjoy Gardiner's thoughtful essays in the booklet - he seems to have got to the heart of the matter, interpreting the cantatas in the light of Bach's deeply-held Lutheran faith.
     
    tones, May 24, 2007
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