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Bach - Weihnachtsoratorium (Christmas Oratorio) Box set

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On Friday 2 October 2009 Nikolaus Harnoncourt was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Gramophone awards ceremony in London.

Celebrating his 80th birthday in 2009, Nikolaus Harnoncourt was born in Berlin, grew up in Graz (Austria) and studied the cello in Vienna, where from 1952 to 1969 he was a cellist with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. In 1972 he became Professor for ... Read more in Amazon's Nikolaus Harnoncourt Store

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Product details

  • Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Audio CD (6 Oct 2008)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: Sony Music Classical
  • ASIN: B001E1TGA4
  • Other Editions: Audio Cassette  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 12,638 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Product Description

I will ship by EMS or SAL items in stock in Japan. It is approximately 7-14days on delivery date. You wholeheartedly support customers as satisfactory. Thank you for you seeing it.

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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By snakelock on 24 Dec 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I have a whole collection of Bach's Christmas Oratorio and have always had strong preferences towards certain interpretations, particularly as I sang a lot of Bach whilst being a student in Leipzig. This recording, however, is a welcome addition to my CD shelf and I could not take my ears off it for a few hours. The orchestra does not quite fulfil my admittedly high expectations, as they do not achieve the crispness and clarity you'd expect for Bach. The biggest surprise, however, is the lightness and perfect musical shape with which the Schönberg-Chor and all soloists perform. They never force a sound, they are able to zoom to high notes in perfect harmony, they sing with flawless diction, e.g. when they take the weight off end syllables,... just great. Since I found this recording so astonishing, I have placed some more CDs by this choir in my shopping basket. Can't wait for the St Matthew Passion!
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By enthusiast TOP 500 REVIEWER on 8 Dec 2009
Format: Audio CD
This is exceptional. Harnoncourt's most recent recording of the Christmas Oratorio is something special. Taken from a live performance it is full of joy and magnificence. The singers are excellent and the playing and chorus are also fine. But it is Harnoncourt's attention to details and his delightful attention to phrasing that makes this special. That and his command of the overall work.

The Christmas Oratorio is a collection is six cantatas but the best performances present it convincingly as a whole. Harnoncourt is perhaps the most convincing of all in this respect. This is a relatively slow Christmas Oratorio and yet despite this and the attention that he lavishes on phrases and details, the flow and dramatic tension never for a minute lapse.

I still love my Suzuki account. It is very different to this - it is crisp and light and clear in comparison - while sharing with it a willingness to let the music breathe. But if I had to choose - which is something I would hate to do - it would have to be Harnoncourt.

The sound is full rather than clear. The presentation is lavish - everything is gold. The price seems surprisingly cheap.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mr Swallow on 23 Dec 2011
Format: Audio CD
This is absolutely superb, a wonderfully joyous realisation of Bach's Christmas celebration work. Elegantly phrased and with tempi that appear just right, there is a wonderful sense of seasonal joy here. Choir, orchestra and soloists superb. One of those occasions where everything comes together. I've got three versions of this piece on CD but this is top of the list but for conducting, singing and, above all, for the sheer joy of celebration. Give yourself a treat and buy it!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tanyrallt on 26 Feb 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
CD supplied promptly at the right price. My wife and I have known this work for many years in other versions, but playing it has hitherto had the feeling of duty rather than enjoyment; but by contrast Harnoncourt's performance has us listening again just for the sheer pleasure of it. Buy it!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 1 review
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Mystery of Christmas with Bach. 24 Dec 2011
By Anna Shlimovich - Published on
Format: Audio CD
It has been a few years since I listen to this fabulous Oratorio at this most wonderful time of the year, but it was only this season that I looked closer into the creation behind this music. And as it is always with Bach when you approach his art, the shroud of mystery envelopes the opus, as again and again you are asking yourself - how did he manage to ever write this, knowing that he wrote countless other masterpieces of unparalleled quality? And naturally, all that was done in time when there were no computers, iPhone, synthesizers, TVs, emulators, sound recording and all what should have potentially given birth to phenomenal music today, but by the will of the same divine providence that made Bach music itself, we do not have in our time anything nearing his might.

The Weihnachts-Oratorium (The Christmas Oratorio) was created in 1734 - BWV 248 was written for that Christmas season. It is a work of a mature genius whose powers are boundless; and from the first sounds we are just as awe-stricken as the first listeners definitely were - in Leipzig, where the oratorio was played and sung in two churches - Nikolaikirche and Thomaskirche. It is the latter church that seems to be completely devoted to Bach's commemoration today, including his statue outside:

Thomaskirche Leipzig (German Edition)

Alas, in his own day in Leipzig he was not as venerated, as city of Leipzig was quite explicit in specifying what he must compose and where it would be performed. The good thing about Leipzig orderly bureaucracy is that we know a lot about this work, and there is even an manuscript signed by Bach of this opus.

Weihnachts-Oratorium consists of six parts, each part was supposed to be performed on a separate day in the following order, with location specified for each day and part:

Part I. The Birth of Jesus - 25 December 1734I - 'early in the morning' at Nikolaikirche; 'in the afternoon' at Thomaskirche;
Part II. The Annunciation to the Shepherds - 26 December 1734 - morning at Thomaskirche; afternoon at Nikolaikirche;
Part III. The Adoration of the Shepherds - 27 December 1734 - morning at Nikolaikirche;
Part IV. The Circumcision and Naming of Jesus - 1 January 1735 - morning at Thomaskirche; afternoon at Nikolaikirche;
Part V. The Journey of the Magi - 2 January 1735 - morning at Nikolaikirche;
Part VI. The Adoration of the Magi - 6 January 1735 - morning at Thomaskirche; afternoon at Nikolaikirche.

The music strikes at the beginning as blazing exuberant; the choice of harmonies is deliberately festive - Part I is written in a joyful festive key of D major. From the very first sounds, magnificent counterpoint cascades on the listener in waves of jubilation. Each part of the six-part oratorio has its own complex multi-part structure - starting with chorus, moving on to a recitative or an aria and ending with a chorale. The only deviation is Part II which starts with Sinfonia that is exceptionally beautiful music and truly I cannot think of a more sublime image for it than this (Die Anbetung im Walde by Fra Filippo Lippi; 1459; Gemaldegalerie Berlin):

Fra Filippo Lippi (Adoration of the Child and St. Bernard) Art Poster- 11x17 custom fit with RichAndFramous Black 99 inch Poster Hangers

Next time in Berlin, in front of that picture, this music will play in the mind - so amazing it is when seen live, so full of incredible mastery and details, of magic embellishments and ornamentations that seem to transcend into Bach's music and share with it its unique in unattainable beauty in some mysterious way that only unraveled masterpieces can have in common...

Then in the same Part II the splendid alto aria follows at No. 19: Schlafe, mein Liebster, genieße der Ruh' - in the same G major key as the Sinfonia. Bernarda Fink, an alto voice of the mother Virgin Mary sings the aria marvelously. It is interesting to note that the source for this aria is another - "Schlafe, mein Liebster, und pflege der Ruh" from a secular cantata BWV 213 ((Hercules at the Crossroads), performed on 5 September 1733 for the eleventh birthday of Prince Friedrich Christian of Saxony. It is my private opinion that Part II is probably the most sublime of the whole Oratorio.

Part II is also written in a different key from the opening Part I in D major - it is in G major key, which was considered a key of Benediction in the Baroque era. What is the most conspicuous that Handel uses the same key in "For unto us a child is born" in his Messiah, for the part devoted to Christ's birth, just as this Bach's Oratorio is. Messiah was written 7 years later, in 1741, and knowing Handel's talent in re-using ideas from other composers, it would not be surprising to learn that he borrowed heavily for his Messiah from this Weihnachts-Oratorium. Alas, Messiah is much better known - a fact that only demonstrates once more supreme injustice of musical fashion that is heavily influenced by factors that could not be ever further from all things artistic. However, both works are genius, and both could be played softly in Scuola Grande di San Rocco to converge for artistic unity:

FRAMED oil paintings - Tintoretto (Jacopo Comin) - 24 x 36 inches - The Adoration of the Shepherd...

One can appreciate tremendous progress in complexity and expressiveness, sophistication, instrumentation and harmony while comparing this work with its predecessors, for example,Christmas Oratorio by Heinrich Schütz:

Schütz: Weihnachtshistorie (The Nativity)

While it is a significant piece for its own time, it is irredeemably poorer and simpler in its language, sounding more like early Renaissance music, while Bach is so richly, openly and opulently Baroque here. Although this Oratorio is a close relative of his Passions, it is to me Bach's most vivacious representation of Protestant Opera with lieto fine. The text appropriately contains parts by Martin Luther, who translated the Bible into German. In this work one can hear only scant traces of awaiting suffering which fills the Passions; here the whole three hours seem to be played and sung by angels celebrating.

Jan van Eyck (Ghent altar altar of the Mystic Lamb, left wing, top, inner scene: music angel) - 13x19 custom fit with RichAndFramous Black 99 inch Poster Hangers

The chorus of angels contains various voices, just as on van Eyck's picture, while The Angel is represented by soprano (in this recording by the nebulous angelic voice of Christine Schafer - even though she could sing Lulu also in another reincarnation):

Hand Made Oil Reproduction - Matthias Grünewald - 24 x 14 inches - Isenheim Altarpiece (second vi...

Evangelist is traditionally a tenor; Werner Gura is one of the best tenors for German repertoire, and he is so sensitive and delicately nuanced here. It is interesting to note that Christ voice in Passions is reserved for a baryton (singers as Hermann Prey or Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau), while Handel uses tenor for Jesus in his Messiah. And alto voice represents the motherly voice of the Virgin. As I mentioned, Bernarda Fink is excellent, but woe to her I have heard this aria sung by Marilyn Horne (included in comments) and nothing can compare to the Dame Horne singing - if you want to hear absolutely tremendous, divine legato, astonishingly sustained notes and the most exquisite timbre. Marilyn's is indeed the voice of the Queen of Heaven.

The expertly direction of Nikolaus Harnoncourt leads the orchestra and chorus through the long and sinuous road of Bach's score to triumphal finale, akin to success of the Flight to Egypt. There is no surprise in a way that Maestro Harnoncourt delivered a thrilling performance since he is a life-long specialist in Bach; he has always mustered all the authority needed to control complex scores like this. The musicians play with devoted fervor, delivering a Weihnachtsoratorium that quivered with supernatural beauty, joy, love and hope; one experiences the same emotions while in Palazzo Doria-Pamphili in front of this masterpiece, where the angel could hold the score of this oratorio in his wings:

Professionally Framed Michelangelo Caravaggio (Resting on the Flight to Egypt) Art Poster Print - 13x19 with RichAndFramous Black Wood Frame

A must.
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