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Bach: Christmas Cantatas / Kevin Mallon, Aradia Ensemble


Release Date: 10/17/2000 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8554825   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Teri DunnJohn TessierMatthew WhiteSteven Pitkanen,   ... 
Conductor:  Kevin Mallon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Aradia Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 2 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

So, the debate over how many singers and players to a part in Bach's cantatas lives on. This time, it's another vote for the Joshua Rifkin theory, a one-voice-per-part configuration primarily based on circumstantial evidence and informed deduction from surviving part books. It's an intriguing if porous theory that nevertheless satisfies curiosities and fancies of legitimate and well-intentioned musicologists and performers. Whenever this subject comes up, I only have to wonder what an investigator, with little other direct evidence, would determine to be my own performing forces if, 300 years from now he or she were to discover the contents of one of my church choir libraries! I prefer to look at the single voice to a part idea as just Read more another way to perform music that by its nature stands up to almost any configuration of voices and/or instruments you want to throw at it. Of course you can perform Bach badly, but whether you use four voices or 40, if you sing it well, it still works.

There's no getting around the fact that many of the cantatas--as is true for the three on this disc--are dominated by solos, with only perhaps an opening chorus and closing chorale. So for these works, we're not so aware of the size of the vocal forces, and the key to performance becomes finding sensitive and competent instrumentalists and some very good solo singers. Luckily for us, we get rather formidable doses of both on this recording from the Toronto-based Aradia ensemble, a relatively new group with some personnel ties to Tafelmusik and who specialize in period instrument performance of Baroque works. In fact, the main reason to hear this recording is for the exceptional solo singing--and I do mean exceptional, especially from tenor John Tessier, countertenor Matthew White (listen to the recitative in BWV 132), and, after a slightly shaky start, soprano Teri Dunn. Dunn's aria in BWV 36, with one of those sublime violin obbligatos that only Bach could have conceived, and a melody with one of the best "hooks" ever to work its irresistible, unforgettable way into a listener's heart, is a shining example of what happens when performer and music perfectly match. It would be easy to go on about all the felicities of the singing and how much really wonderful music is packed into these three relatively short works. But you should also know that where the ensemble joins in the choruses, the balances are not exactly clean and detailed--we hear too much soprano and lots of reverberation from the spacious church of St. Mary Magdalene--one of Toronto's most famous choral venues.

The instrumental playing is first rate and is well recorded, but balances tend to work against the soloists in the full-group sections. There's also some confusion concerning the version of BWV 36 that's performed here. The liner notes say it's the Advent cantata written for performance in 1731, but that one was an expanded version of the five-movement work that appears here--and was performed a year earlier. For the performance of BWV 61, the familiar Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, conductor/violinist Kevin Mallon augments his solo forces with eight additional singers, essentially forming a ripieno chorus that is joined by the soloists in the tutti passages. This cantata never quite finds its temporal and interpretive center and leaves us feeling a little disjointed, but with very strongly positive memories of those fabulous earlier solos.
--David Vernier , ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Schwingt freudig euch empor, BWV 36 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Teri Dunn (Soprano), John Tessier (Tenor), Matthew White (Countertenor),
Steven Pitkanen (Baritone)
Conductor:  Kevin Mallon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Aradia Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1731; Leipzig, Germany 
Date of Recording: 01/2000 
Venue:  St Mary Church, Toronto, Canada 
Length: 23 Minutes 6 Secs. 
Language: German 
2.
Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn!, BWV 132 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Matthew White (Countertenor), John Tessier (Tenor), Teri Dunn (Soprano),
Thomas Goerz (Bass), Steven Pitkanen (Baritone)
Conductor:  Kevin Mallon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Aradia Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1715; Weimar, Germany 
Date of Recording: 01/2000 
Venue:  St Mary Church, Toronto, Canada 
Length: 18 Minutes 25 Secs. 
Language: German 
3.
Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV 61 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Teri Dunn (Soprano), John Tessier (Tenor), Matthew White (Countertenor),
Genevive Gilardeau (Violin), Steven Pitkanen (Baritone)
Conductor:  Kevin Mallon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Aradia Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1714; Cöthen, Germany 
Date of Recording: 01/2000 
Venue:  St Mary Church, Toronto, Canada 
Length: 14 Minutes 10 Secs. 
Language: German 
4.
Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland(s) by Johann Sebastian Bach
Conductor:  Kevin Mallon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Aradia Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Date of Recording: 01/2000 
Venue:  St Mary Church, Toronto, Canada 
Length: 5 Minutes 21 Secs. 

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