Notes and Editorial Reviews
There are several very fine period-performance recordings of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio in the catalog, including the two reference versions listed above, and this one, from 2002 and originally released on Arts Music, while not a top choice, has much to recommend it. Diego Fasolis, who’s proven to be a reliable, knowledgeable, and effective interpreter of baroque works, seems to believe that keeping tempos on the brisker side of most other performances of this set of cantatas is a desirable approach, beginning with a whirlwind opening “Jauchzet, frohlocket!” (That exclamation point really means something here!). And overall his choices work–maintaining momentum and a lively interest in the proceedings while sacrificing some of the drama in
the more contemplative moments.
If the vocal solos didn’t make up such a large part of the cantatas, the recording would have received a higher rating, but generally soprano Lynne Dawson and alto Bernhard Landauer sound rather plain and detached, especially disappointing in two of the “big” numbers, the alto aria “Schlafe, mein Liebster…” and “Schließe, mein Herze…” for soprano. However there are also wonderful turns, by Evangelist/tenor Charles Daniels in his dazzlingly ornamented “Frohe Hirten…” (and his “evangelizing” in general), and in the soprano/bass duet “Herr, dein Mitleid…”, where Dawson suddenly comes to life and interacts to thrilling effect with Klaus Mertens.
Chorus and orchestra are excellent, and the continuo and solo-instrumental work is absolutely spot on (another highlight of that above-mentioned duet). The original Arts release is in SACD format, and although I haven’t heard it (it’s available for about three times the price of this non-SACD Brilliant Classics set), previous Arts recordings of similar repertoire with these forces have been quite good to excellent. In this incarnation, the sound is mostly very fine, except for some reason in the tuttis, which sound somewhat flat and less, well, “brilliant” compared to the other sections. If you’re considering purchasing this very favorably priced set, you should know that there are no notes on music or performance, and the text is provided in German only. [12/14/2011]
-- David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Bernhard Landauer (Countertenor),
Klaus Mertens (Bass),
Charles Daniels (Tenor)
Written: 1734-1735; Leipzig, Germany
Date of Recording: 12/2002
Length: 135 Minutes 26 Secs.
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