WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Bach: Cantatas Bwv 63, 110, 190 / Thomanerchor Leipzig, Gewandhausorchester

Release Date: 03/27/2012 
Label:  Rondeau Productions   Catalog #: 4043   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Conductor:  Georg Christoph Biller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leipzig Gewandhaus OrchestraLeipzig Thomaner Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

BACH Cantatas, Vol. 2: Christmas Georg Christoph Biller (cond); Paul Bernewitz 1 , Friedrich Praetorius (treble 2 ); Stefan Kahle (alt 1–3 ); Christoph Genz (ten 1–3 ); Matthias Weichert (bs 1–3 ); Thomanerchor Leipzig; Leipozig Gewndhaus O RONDEAU ROP4043 Read more (74:18 Text and Translation)

Cantatas: 1 110; 2 63; 3 190. 3 Hymns

BACH Cantatas, Vol. 10: Reformation & Michaelmas Day Georg Christoph Biller (cond); Friedrich Praetorius; 2 Conrad Zuber (treble 1,3 ); Stefan Kahle (alt 2,3 ); Martin Petzold (ten 1,2 ); Gotthold Schwarz (bs 1–3 ); Thomanerchor Leipzig; Leipozig Gewndhaus O RONDEAU ROP4031 (70:51 Text and Translation)

Cantatas: 1 19; 50; 2 80; 3 79. 2 Hymns

It’s been nearly a quarter century since I first opened our then brand-new hymnal and discovered that the Amens were gone! I can’t say that I’ve yet gotten over the shock. It was explained to us that the Amens weren’t in the original hymns; they were later additions, and by getting rid of them the editors were getting back to roots. No regard for us basses who are losing upper register with age; getting back to roots has an entirely different meaning for us. And after all, there is a longstanding tradition of ending a hymn with an Amen. There are organists who, disdaining the editorial decree, continue to add phantom Amens, as if to wish a plagal on the heads of those officious editors.

Current scholarship has decreed that for authenticity Bach must be performed with a chamber-sized ensemble—the smaller the better. I can accept that concept—to a degree. There are some outstanding one-to-a-part cantata recordings—by Sigiswald Kuijken and Joshua Rifkin, to name just two—though I generally favor small-choir versions by Ton Koopman, Masaaki Suzuki, John Eliot Gardiner, Philippe Herreweghe and the like. Either way, small is good.

However, there is also a longstanding tradition of performing Bach with many singers and instrumentalists (playing up-to-date instruments). And there is an audience for it. At Bach’s home church his erstwhile choir, the Leipzig Thomanerchor, gives weekly concerts with the celebrated Gewandhaus Orchestra, no less, singing primarily his music. True, his cantatas went out of fashion for a time after his death, but they have been the core of the repertory for well over a century. The choir, founded in 1212, has grown from under 20 boys during Bach’s tenure to more than 90 today. Judging from Bach’s own assessment, they’ve grown commensurately in their musical skills as well. There are no street urchins in today’s Thomanerchor. I can’t imagine that Bach would have disapproved. What musician doesn’t want to make a bigger splash? And with a superbly talented cohort? I suspect that his famous memo to the Town Council may have laid out his minimum, not his maximum, requirements for a well-regulated musical establishment. HIP or not, the Thomanerchor’s concerts are a major attraction.

Georg Christoph Biller has been cantor of the Thomanerchor since 1992. In addition to giving the local concerts the choir has toured domestically and internationally and recorded extensively. These new releases are the first of a projected series of 10 discs based on the liturgical year. Volume 2 offers two Christmas cantatas (Nos. 110 and 63) and one for New Year’s Day (No. 190). Volume 10 covers Michaelmas Sunday in late September (Nos. 19 and 50) and Reformation Sunday in late October (Nos. 80 and 79). Yet to come are discs devoted to Advent, Epiphany, Passion, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity, and the Marian Festival. Every venture needs a twist, and Biller’s has been to include hymns appropriate for the season. One of the hymns in Volume 10 is actually a brief motet by Johann Walter (1496–1570). Cantata 80, by the way, is performed without Wilhelm Friedemann’s supplemental high trumpets.

Apart from the size of his ensemble, Biller is well aware of the current expectations. He lets the music speak for itself, in moderation without exaggerations. Tempos are crisp, but he avoids the temptation, so characteristic of the period-instrument ensembles, to give an isolated movement an extra burst of adrenaline. The larger choir isn’t quite as nimble as the smaller, professional, adult choirs, but it sings accurately and attentively and is lovely to hear. The choral sound, treble voices on display, definitely has its charms. The orchestra, predictably, is top-notch. The adult soloists, Christoph Genz, Matthias Weichert, Martin Petzold, and Gotthold Schwarz, are all good or better, but here’s the rub—the choirboy soloists: Paul Bernewitz, Frierich Praetorius, Conrad Zuber, and Stefan Kahle. All are to be commended for mastering their parts, and I daresay that every one would have made a fine impression on a live audience. But I don’t know whether they will continue to reward repeated listening. It’s the same problem that plagued the groundbreaking Harnoncourt-Leonhardt series for Teldec.

Overall, I’m disposed to approve of these recordings, especially for listeners who love the boychoir/cathedral sound. But I have that one reservation, and it’s a big one. I’m inclined to say try one; you just might like it.

FANFARE: George Chien
Read less

Works on This Recording

Unser Mund sei voll Lachens, BWV 110 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Conductor:  Georg Christoph Biller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra,  Leipzig Thomaner Choir
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1725; Leipzig, Germany 
Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, BWV 190 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Conductor:  Georg Christoph Biller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra,  Leipzig Thomaner Choir
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1724; Leipzig, Germany 
Christen, ätzet diesen Tag, BWV 63 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Conductor:  Georg Christoph Biller
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra,  Leipzig Thomaner Choir
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1713-1715; Cöthen, Germany 

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title