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Cantatas (sacred) - Released September 21, 2018 | Phi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
For the fourth time on the Phi label, Philippe Herreweghe presents three cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach – Christ lag in Todesbanden, BWV 4, Gott der Herr ist Sonn und Schild, BWV 79, and Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, BWV 80. Written at different moments in the composer’s life and based to a large extent on the works of Martin Luther, these cantatas reflect a marked taste for dramaturgy, vivid word painting and an invariably astonishing use of instruments and voices. Philippe Herreweghe and Collegium Vocale Gent give us an accomplished version of these masterpieces, confirming, if further proof were needed, their stature as ardent champions of Bach. © Outhere Music
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Cantatas (sacred) - Released May 25, 2018 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Bach's "Dialogue Cantatas" generally portrayed Jesus in dialogue with the human soul, first tormented and then at peace. The three cantatas selected here by Berlin's Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, which has, over the years since 1982 (with over a million records sold!) brought together musicians from the city's different orchestras – first those under Soviet rule and then all orchestras following the fall of the Wall – are a part of this genre; all date from the great Leipzig period, specifically the third cycle written by Bach for Leipzig in 1726. It will come as no surprise, hearing these cantatas, that the essence of the first arias is desperate, heart-rending: and as they go on, they move towards relief and joy. It is in these first moments that we see Bach at his most intense, most pained, most chromatic, terribly modern as well as at his most romantic, profoundly lyrical and yet rigorous in the musical discourse. The most superbly original piece is surely the Cantata BWV 49, which begins with a Sinfonia with obbligato organ – in which the listener will recognise the final movement of the Harpsichord Concerto in E Major, when Bach recycled it a dozen years later – and continues with an aria with cello and oboe, both soloists immersed in the soprano's joyous voice; and we finish on a magnificent chorale with an aria – the aria being for the bass of the solo organ, while the soprano part sings the chorale's theme from on high: a staggering display of modernity. © SM/Qobuz
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 9, 2018 | harmonia mundi

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Cantatas (sacred) - Released February 16, 2018 | Mirare

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice - Diapason d'or / Arte
The cantata Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe (Jesus gathered the twelve to Himself) BWV 22, holds a historic place in Bach’s work. Indeed he composed it while still in Köthen, as an audition piece for the position of Thomaskantor in Leipzig, and then conducted it on February 7th, 1723, maybe even singing the bass part himself. Famously the city council, unable to convince its preferred composers – Telemann, Graupner and two others –, decided to settle with “mediocre” Bach… The gospel of the day first announces his death and his resurrection by Christ and his disciplines. A modest orchestra: voices, strings, one oboe and continuo, but the musical content is – like in almost all of Bach’s cantatas – amongst the best he’s ever written. For the same celebration, Bach composed a new cantata the following year, Herr Jesu Christ, wahr’ Mensch und Gott (Lord Jesus Christ, true Man and God) BWV 127. But it has almost nothing in common with the previous piece: here Bach offers a very impressive reflection on physical death. Throughout his cantatas he called for a blessed death to free himself from the vicissitudes of life on Earth, but this now reveals how much he may have feared physical death itself. The aria ”Die Seele ruht” is one of these sublime moments suspended in time, an ineffable tintinnabulum, in which the soprano and the oboe dialogue on a harrowing theme while the flutes and string pizzicatos symbolise the passing of time with incredible beauty. Finally it’s with Die Elenden sollen essen (The miserable shall eat) BWV 75 that Bach started off his work in Leipzig, in St. Nicholas Church this time, as the cantatas were alternately performed in both churches. Probably because he wanted to start with a bang, he designed this cantata on a huge scale: fourteen numbers, divided in two parts. Of course Bach would have never been able to produce such vast and powerful partitions on a weekly basis, but there is a real substance to this Passion… and it’s with great passion that Philippe Pierlot, his Ricercar Consort and the soloists perform these masterpieces. © SM/Qobuz

Sacred Vocal Music - Released December 1, 2017 | BIS

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
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We can only welcome the appearance of new recordings of Bach's Motets: these unique works which defy classification are also often difficult to date accurately. The common factor shared by those Motets which have survived to the present day (because many were lost) appears to be the purely choral conception of the musical discourse, from end to end, the absence of instrumentation - if they are played with instruments, the latter only back up the choral parts (excluding the BWV118, initially believed to be a cantata as it was written with a small musical accompaniment, but the form remains that of a short motet, hence the uncertainty about which classification to give it) - the deliberate archaism  of the words, and the likely funereal purpose of most of the works. The Norwegian Soloists' Choir (Det Norske Solistkor) is one of the foremost Norwegian musical ensembles and one of the best chamber choirs in Europe. The choir is just as comfortable with the classical/romantic repertoire as with contemporary music and makes frequent forays into music derived from romantic national folkloric works. The ensemble was founded in 1950 by the composer Knut Nystedt, who led it for four decades. In 1990, he was succeeded by Grete Pedersen, and she now directs the group - with the help of the Allegria Ensemble, also Norwegian - for this fine recording. © SM/Qobuz

Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released October 13, 2017 | SDG

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Gramophone Editor's Choice - Le Choix de France Musique - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Jazz
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So much can be said about this new recording featuring among others − but as the pièce de résistance − Bach’s Magnificat, performed by John Eliot Gardiner, that we simply don’t know where to start! In 1983 – already 35 years ago! – Gardiner gave his first vision of Magnificat BWV 234 in D major; here the version in question is the BWV 234a in E flat major, the original and initial version, the – extended – one Bach wrote as soon as 1723 while the BWV 234 version (more often played nowadays) only arose from adjustments made ten years later. Of course one can debate on the advantages of one over the other but for this recording, Gardiner put emphasis on the brilliance, vibrancy and stunning virtuosity imposed by the E-flat major tone and vigorous tempi, in other words: undeniably modern! Magnificat is preceded by the Mass in F major, one of Bach’s four Lutheran masses, proper gems that are too rarely performed. It’s worth noting that most movements are recycled from previous cantatas, but with thorough rewrites of course! You’ll also find one of Gardiner’s favourite cantatas, Süßer Trost, mein Jesus kömmt (Sweet comfort, my Jesus comes), BWV 151, composed for the Christmas period. With his English Baroque Soloists, his Monteverdi Choir and a broad group of soloists (the alto parts are given to a male voice, it’s worth mentioning in case… it’s not your cup of tea), Gardiner is once again standing on top of a great success.
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Cantatas (sacred) - Released September 8, 2017 | Phi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 5 étoiles de Classica
For the third time on the Phi label, Philippe Herreweghe gives us the opportunity to (re)discover three cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach – Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott, BWV 101, Ihr werdet weinen und heulen, BWV 103 and Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit, BWV 115. After two albums of cantatas written during the composer’s first year in Leipzig, the Belgian conductor and his Collegium Vocale Gent, orchestra and choir, will be performing three cantatas he composed during his second year as Kantor at St Thomas’s. The choir and vocal soloists are once again challenged to produce performances of subtlety and refined virtuosity, and the instrumentarium is as rich and colourful as those heard previously in this series. © Phi

Cantatas (sacred) - Released September 1, 2017 | PHI

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Cantatas (sacred) - Released April 21, 2017 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Le Choix de France Musique - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
The three Bach cantatas presented on this album belong to the composer’s Weimar period (where he lived and worked from 1708 to 1717), written between 1711 and 1714. Bach was still a young composer then, but the full body of his artistry is already present, and one can but shake the head in disbelief: where did the fellow find the source of such intense emotion, such harmonic and melodic boldness? The beginning of "Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten" ("Yield now, troubling shadows") unfolds a succession of harmonies which seem to have no logical link with each other, some kind of non-tonality – this being the way the composer describes in music the aforementioned lugubrious shadows. Arias alternately heartbreaking and tender, instrumental inventiveness, you name it, Bach has it. Soprano Carolyn Sampson, accompanied by the Freiburger Barockorchester (together with baritone Andreas Wolf for the cantata "Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn"), lends her voice with dedication to the music, combining the teachings of historically informed performance with a solid sense of emotion, indispensable for such masterpieces. © SM/Qobuz

Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 10, 2017 | SDG

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Award - Gramophone Record of the Month - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released September 30, 2016 | BR-Klassik

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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 25, 2016 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4 étoiles de Classica
The external graphics of this recording of Bach's St. John Passion by conductor René Jacobs and the RIAS Kammerchor, with a similar set of soloists to those who appeared on Jacobs' St. Matthew Passion recording, promise various innovations, and the notes delve into more. A DVD version of the performance is included. The recording offers the usual 1749 "revised" version of the work, adding material from the 1725 version in both the CD and the download versions, and including some interesting reflections on whether one can speak at all of an authentic version of a work that evolved to the degree that this one did. There are some innovations in the placement of the musicians, moving the choir up to a point next to the orchestra, with only the "expanded" choir of the chorales in back, and this works well: the words of the choir are given striking immediacy in this way. The size of that choir, too, may be considered an innovation in these days of competing full-choir and one-voice-per-part versions; Jacobs expresses scorn toward the latter solution but makes a sure to be controversial move of his own, employing a larger choir for the chorales than for the polyphonic choral passages even in the absence of any documentary support for such a configuration. The basic idea, however, is defensible: Jacobs finds in the work a "concerto principle," going all the way back to a 1920 remark of musicologist Arnold Schering: Bach's "concerto principle" as applied to choral music added "a surprising and clearly perceptible gradation of sound." All these small details add up to something absolutely distinctive: a small but not chamber-sized performance that strains for maximum expressiveness (although not operatic "drama") at every turn. From the magnificent motet-like opening chorus onward this is a performance with extraordinary depth and power. The soloists, above all the luscious soprano Sunhae Im and the commanding tenor Werner Güra as the Evangelist (who does not emerge from the choir like the other soloists on the theory that the vocal ordeal would be too severe), do their part, and the small choir matches them in precise effect. Sample one of the more active scenes, such as the Jews' demands of Pilate (CD one, track 23), for a taste of this recording's combination of immediacy and elevation. But know that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Very highly recommended.

Cantatas (sacred) - Released September 1, 2009 | Coviello Classics

Booklet Distinctions The Unusual Suspects
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released January 1, 2016 | CPO

Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released November 6, 2015 | SDG

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 4 étoiles de Classica
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For his new recording of this monument to Bach, John Eliot Gardiner is limited to a light chamber orchestra (obviously the English Baroque Soloists, founded here 37 years ago by Gardiner!), a choir of reasonable size (the Monteverdi Choir, same remark...), and a meticulous - but above all, calm - conducting of the articulations, phrases and lines, almost like a kind of chamber opera. The tempos are rather upbeat, like baroque music back in its heyday - the perfect balance between respecting history and the quest for beauty of sound. Gardiner has nothing dogmatic - making this new recording a particularly welcome perspective among the ample discography(yet unsatisfactory) of this Mass en si. © SM / Qobuz

Sacred Oratorios - Released April 7, 2015 | Carus

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Sacred Vocal Music - Released January 19, 2015 | harmonia mundi

Distinctions Choc de Classica
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Sacred Oratorios - Released August 6, 2014 | Apmusica

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Sacred Oratorios - Released July 7, 2014 | Apmusica

Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 4, 2014 | Rondeau

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