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The Bach Collection / Harry Christophers, The Sixteen

Release Date: 09/08/2009 
Label:  Coro   Catalog #: 16072   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Libby CrabtreeLynda RussellMark PadmoreCatherine Wyn-Rogers,   ... 
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The SixteenThe Symphony of Harmony and Invention
Number of Discs: 5 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Three of The Sixteen's celebrated Bach recordings in one stylish boxed set. Weihnachts Oratorium (COR16017) - The Christmas Oratorio is one of Bach's greatest masterpieces and this recording is one of The Sixteen's finest. Mark Padmore is one of today's greatest 'Evangelist's', and this recording shows him at his very best. Cantatas 34, 50, 147 (COR16039) - During his years as Leipzig's Director Musices, Bach supplied at least three complete annual cycles of Cantatas for the church year. The rich variety of his writing for solo voices and orchestra along with thrilling choral textures is well represented in the three cantatas on this disc. Mass in B minor (COR16044) - Bach's Mass in B minor displays all the ingredients that contribute to Read more his supreme ranking amongst his peers of any age, and also demonstrates the breadth of compositional skills amassed during his lifetime. It demands choral singing of blistering athleticism but also sensitive, responsive and, at times, majestic orchestral playing coupled with virtuosic obligato. "All hail the über-choir" The Independent

R E V I E W S:

Whoa! Here’s another distinguished choral group marketing its recordings on its own label. Ton Koopman, of course, rescued the Amsterdam Baroque Chorus’s Bach Cantata series from oblivion by securing the rights to the recordings from Erato and releasing them on the Challenge label. And John Eliot Gardiner established his own label, Soli Deo Gloria, to release the Monteverdi Choir’s Bach Cantata Pilgrimage recordings after Archiv cancelled its contract to publish them. But prior to either of those developments, Harry Christophers and The Sixteen formed a new label, Coro, to distribute their treasures, which were recorded by Collins. Christophers, to the best of my knowledge, has not set out to record all of the Bach cantatas, but it seems appropriate that my introduction to Coro is devoted to three of them, including two of the very best. BWV 147, derived from a Weimar cantata, was revised for Bach’s first annual cycle in Leipzig and is the source of the stunning chorale better known (and loved) as “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” BWV 34, a late work, was also derived from an earlier effort, in this case, a wedding cantata. It opens with a richly scored chorale fantasia, but the heart of the work is its sole aria for alto, accompanied by two flutes and muted strings. Cantata 50, a mighty choral movement, is a fragment of a cantata that is otherwise lost. In a nice touch, Christophers separates the cantatas with a pair of organ chorale preludes, played by Paul Nicholson.

If Cantata 50, the first item on the disc, sounds a little beefy, it is in fact a hearty chorus and a reminder that, for all his universality, Bach was distinctly German. Yet David James’s reading of the alto aria from Cantata 34 is a model of sensitivity. Cantata 147 and “Jesu, Joy” (twice) are rendered stylishly and sympathetically. For newcomers to the Bach cantatas, this disc could serve a fine introduction. Rifkinites will be disappointed once more, but the name of the ensemble should warn them of what to expect. (It’s actually “worse” than that—the choir, according to the roster, numbers 18.) Speaking of names, one must assume that the instrumental ensemble was assembled with Vivaldi in mind, but it does Bach about as well as one might wish.

FANFARE: George Chien Review of Coro 16039

On 2 October 1993 The Sixteen were 16. That is to say Harry Christophers’s excellent Sixteen Choir and Orchestra celebrated their 16th birthday. And to mark the event, Collins have issued no fewer than three major new recordings of the ensemble: Handel’s Israel in Egypt, Volume IV of the Eton Choir Book, and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. The Bach disc is superlative, demonstrating all The Sixteen’s familiar virtues: precise, musical choral singing, crisply articulated playing by their orchestra, and an historically informed approach. Simon Heighes’s informative note emphasises the devotional, rather than concert, nature of the Christmas Oratorio, and this is the key to Christophers’s interpretation. Lilting rhythms in the arias reflect the intimacy of the nativity episodes, while the choruses radiate the joy of belief, rather than the clamour of ceremonial. Contributing to that feeling are the muted, even delicate, yet still exuberant tones of the natural trumpet (expertly played by Crispian Steele-Perkins), not least in the final chorus and in the bass aria ‘Grosser Herr’. Michael George is the outstanding bass soloist; Lynda Russell, Catherine Wyn-Rogers and Mark Padmore also give pleasure in the remaining solo roles.

Barry Millington, BBC Music Magazine Reviewing Collins Classics 7028
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Works on This Recording

Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Libby Crabtree (Soprano), Lynda Russell (Soprano), Mark Padmore (Tenor),
Catherine Wyn-Rogers (Mezzo Soprano), Michael George (Bass)
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen,  The Symphony of Harmony and Invention
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1734-1735; Leipzig, Germany 
Mass in B minor, BWV 232 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Michael George (Bass), James Bowman (Countertenor), Catherine Dubosc (Soprano),
John Mark Ainsley (Tenor), Catherine Denley (Mezzo Soprano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen,  The Symphony of Harmony and Invention
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1747-49; Leipzig, Germany 
Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft, BWV 50 [fragment] by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  David James (Countertenor), Ian Partridge (Tenor), Michael George (Bass)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen,  The Symphony of Harmony and Invention
Period: Baroque 
Written: ?1723; ?Leipzig, Germany 
Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gillian Fisher (Soprano), David James (Countertenor), Ian Partridge (Tenor),
Michael George (Bass)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen,  The Symphony of Harmony and Invention
Written: 1723 
O ewiges Feuer, O Ursprung der Liebe, BWV 34 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen,  The Symphony of Harmony and Invention
Period: Baroque 
Written: after 1740; Leipzig, Germany 

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