This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
Bach compiled his Oratorio for the Christmas church season at Leipzig, 1734-35. The six-part cantata was designed for Christmas Day and the two following days, the Feast of the Circumcision, the Sunday after New Year and the Feast of the Epiphany. The solo group of singers, which the conductor Philippe Herreweghe has chosen, is first rate but, unlike John Eliot Gardiner (Archiv Produktion), for instance, Herreweghe has allotted both the Evangelist's role and the tenor arias to one soloist rather than two. This is not uncommon by any means but the division of labour was an effective feature of Gardiner's recording. Nevertheless, Howard Crook, the tenor in this new issue, and in even better form than usual, is quite outstanding. His
"Frohe Hirten, eilt, ach eilet" (Part 2) is just one among many instances here of this singer's fine declamation, acute ear and musical sensibility. As Evangelist, Crook is clear and forthright, punctuating and inflecting with all the necessary skill of a good story-teller. As such he held my attention throughout, in recitatives and arias alike. The counter-tenor Michael Chance also turns in a splendid performance; his "Schlafe, mein Liebster" (Part 2) is warm in tone and fervent in spirit and, from a technical viewpoint, beautifully controlled. Perhaps Chance's "Bereite dich, Zion" (Part 1) was a little less settled, but his is a strong and affecting contribution.
The Dutch bass, Peter Kooy has a lightish voice with a pleasing edge to it. In other words there is nothing plummy here but no absence of resonance either, as you can hear for example in his fine delivery of the recitative passages, "Immanuel, o stisses Wart!" and "Auch in dem Sterben solist du mit das Allerliebste sein" (Part 4). Seldom, if ever, have I heard singing by the German soprano, Barbara Schlick which I have not admired and enjoyed. Her performance here is no exception though I did feel that the echo aria, "Flösst, mein Heiland, flösst dein Namen" (Part 4) lacked a mystic dimension, beautifully sung and played as it is. The dance-like, A major "Nur ein Wink von semen Hhnden" (Part 6), is enchanting though; this is the only true solo soprano aria in the work and Schlick sings it radiantly.
The voices of the Collegium Vocale, Ghent are pleasingly blended and quite well disciplined. They respond faithfully to Herreweghe's direction but sometimes I wish they would not. Herreweghe too often indulges in stylistic refinements at the expense of lively response to the text. There are many passages in this work where voices need to come over with greater emphasis, to sparkle more and, in short, to convey the jubilant spirit of occasion which runs through the Oratorio. The great, inspired and invigorating "Ehre sei dir, Gott, gesungen" (Part 5) is elegantly phrased and well sung, but it lacks fervour and is rhythmically a little unsteady in places; these are weaknesses in direction which can occasionally be noticed elsewhere in the performance and which, at least in these respects, make Gardiner's version the more convincing of the two. Herreweghe's orchestra plays extremely well and there are fine contributions especially from the oboes and horns... The new set, beautifully recorded, comes with a booklet containing full texts in German, English and French, numbered according to the Neue Ausgabe edition and laid out in an exemplary manner, requiring neither magnifying glass nor a qualification in higher mathematics to find your way about.
-- Gramophone [12/1989]
Works on This Recording
Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Barbara Schlick (Soprano),
Michael Chance (Countertenor),
Howard Crook (Tenor),
Peter Kooy (Bass)
Written: 1734-1735; Leipzig, Germany
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