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Edition Bachakademie Vol 76 - Christmas Oratorio / Rilling

Album Summary

>Bach, Johann Sebastian : Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248
Performers Conductor Ensembles Composer

Notes & Reviews:

"Right at the start of the opening chorus, the heaven-storming timpani, joyous brass licks, and scampering sixteenth notes from the strings promise, and indeed deliver, a knockout performance on every level. Time and again you'll be bowled over by the sharp rhythmic character, textural clarity, and organic feeling for drama Rilling elicits from his wonderful musicians...Rilling's soloists stand out for their youthful aplomb, effortless navigation of Bach's challenging passagework, and impressive soft singing...this one adds up to a bargain at any price. Don't miss this truly great recording." -ClassicsToday

Gramophone Classical Music Guide
Energetic director Helmut Rilling is more fired up than ever here. The choruses crackle with thrilling fervour and a blistering attack and shine to notes which, alongside a forthright Gächinger Kantorei, carry the day persuasively on modern instruments. There will always be those for whom Rilling represents an inflexibility of phrasing and unyielding articulation in Bach, paradoxically more reminiscent of the least alluring elements of period performance than the 'ebb and flow' of mainstream consciousness.

This recording doubtless reinforces the odd prejudice, though the habitually hardedged orchestral textures of the Bach Collegium Stuttgart seem more mollifying and warm hearted in movements such as the pastoral Sinfonia at the beginning of Part 2 and the divinely inspired 'Schlafe, mein Liebster' later in the same cantata (it must be said now, flawed by a tiresomely repeated pull-up before the second phrase).

James Taylor is a natural Evangelist: articulate, discriminating, exacting if not emotionally candid. He also retains focus throughout the events of each tableau and gives clearly etched readings. Yet much of the credit must also go to the outstanding solo singing. Sibylla Rubens and Hanno Müller-Brachmann are stunning in the pivotal duet of Part 3, 'Herr, dein Mitleid', and Ingeborg Danz sings with exquisite and gentle poise in the scene-setting 'Bereite dich, Zion'. If her 'Schlafe' is a touch disappointing, then that reflects the weight of expectation which surrounds this central aria. If you prefer a mezzo to a countertenor, then only Anne Sofie von Otter for Gardiner or Christa Ludwig for Richter can better her largely satisfying contribution. Müller-Brachmann is a fine bass soloist in 'Grosser Herr' and as movingly inti- mate as Michael George for Philip Pickett in the recitative with chorale, 'Immanuel, O süsses Wort'. Rubens is on really terrific form throughout, and her 'Nur in Wink' in Part 6 is a model of outstanding Bach singing.

There's a spiritual containment which serves its purpose here - there's absolutely no sentimental guff - and yet it perhaps trespasses into the clinical too readily. Rilling, as ever, raises hopes and only intermittently fulfils them, but this is still a distinguished reading.


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Works Details

>Bach, Johann Sebastian : Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248
  • Performers: Ingeborg Danz (Alto); Hanno Müller-Brachmann (Bass); Sibylla Rubens (Soprano); James Taylor (Tenor); Marcus Ullmann (Tenor)
  • Conductor: Helmuth Rilling
  • Ensemble: Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart
  • Running Time: 155 min. sec.
  • Period Time: Baroque
  • Form: Christmas
  • Studio/Live: Studio