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The RIAS Bach Cantatas Project Berlin 1949 - 1952 Box set

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Product details

  • Conductor: Karl Ristenpart
  • Composer: J.S. Bach
  • Audio CD (5 Mar 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 9
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: Audite
  • ASIN: B0072ZYCX2
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 247,414 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Product Description

This 9-CD boxed set of first releases from the RIAS archives presents the first ever attempt at a recording of the complete Bach cantatas. For everyone who is interested in the history of Bach interpretation and in the development of Germany s post-1945 cultural rebuilding, these recordings represent a significant enrichment. From 1946, Karl Ristenpart established choral and orchestral ensembles at the RIAS Berlin, directing the RIAS Kammerchor and the RIAS Kammerorchester. With these ensembles, and emerging young singers (including Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Helmut Krebs and Agnes Giebel), Karl Ristenpart and Elsa Schiller, then head of music at the RIAS, embarked in 1947 upon a recording series of the complete Bach cantatas. However, it proved impossible to realise the project in its entirety. The 29 cantatas which survive in the RIAS archives document a Bach ideal which is pioneering even by today s standards: thanks to small-scale forces the musical structures are distinct and transparent, and the singers link their articulation to that of the instrumentalists.This interpretation, which is free of any monumentalism, paved the way, aesthetically, for historically informed performance practice.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Eric May on 14 Jan 2013
Format: Audio CD
This collection of Bach's Cantatas is without a doubt one of the most important releases of the Master's works on CD in recent years. Karl Ristenpart's peerless direction of ensembles with many of Europe's top musicians adds up to the leading interpretations of Bach's music on record, most of which has been unavailable for years. The recording standard is very high and the musicianship speaks for itself. A worthy accompaniment to Accord's box set (finally released in 2003) of Ristenpart's Bach Orchestral Works.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By alwyne on 20 May 2012
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Despite the fact that these mono recordings are more than 50 years old, the clarity of diction and the musical performance of these Bach Cantatas is superb. I particularly enjoyed the arias by the young Fischer-Dieskau - I have never heard better performances of these Bach arias. Agnes Giebel is also outstanding. This 5-CD set is excellently priced.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Great Bach conductor with an uneven group of soloists at his disposal 4 Feb 2013
By Anton Zimmerling - Published on
Format: Audio CD
I am adding my voice to the positive review above, with minor reservations. In early 1950s Karl Ristenpart was one of the greatest Bach conductors, along with his one-time father-in-law, Hermann Scherchen Bach: Cantata 35 & 42, Scherchen, Randall, Forrester, Young, Boyden, Westminster, Felix Prohaska Cantatas and the then Thomaskantor, Günther Ramin Johannespassion Bwv 245. The label Audite restored and issued 29 Bach's cantatas recorded by Ristenpart for the Berlin radio (RIAS) in 1949-1952. Actually, Ristenpart recorded for RIAS only 28 J.S.Bach's cantatas, since the solo tenor cantata BWV 160 (CD 9) is Telemann's work. However, the listener should not worry - it is good music, though not in J.S.Bach's veine.

Although Ristenpart, like Prohaska and unlike Ramin's former assistent, Karl Richter Bach: Cantatas, Vol. 3: Himelfahrt; Pfingsten; Trinitatis [Box Set] chose a small chamber orchestra and choir, these are large-scale performances in a grand style. They are rhythmically acute, but not pedantic. As mentioned in the liner note, Ristenpart relied on legato and long lines, which is an old-fashioned feature. At the same time, his readings have great integrity. The sinfonias and instrumental fragments are most impressive. The RIAS chamber choir is not always first-class. As for the soloists, two of them - the light tenor Helmut Krebs (engaged in all tenor parts) and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau are outstanding. Krebs shows effortless and polished singing in the high register, while Fi-Di (who occasionally strains in the low register) demonstrates an enviable intonation. One can also mention young Agnes Giebel (BWV 32, 47, 180, 52, 119, 79, 202) with her fresh soprano. The rest of the group is a mixed bag. The contralto Ingrid Lorentzen (BWV 106, 42, 108, 37, 76, 88, 180, 38) has a timbre suitable for Bach's music, but very wide vibrato and unpleasant high notes, and it is really a trial to hear a 13-minute alto aria from BWV 42 (CD 2, track 20) with her, especially after a beautifully played ritornello and a precending tenor recitative carefully delivered by Krebs. The replacement of Fi-Di (who was likely not available at some recording sessions) by Walter Hauck (BWV 58, 32, 164, 180, 38, 19) or Gerhard Niese (BWV 31, 176) does not always improve the performance either. However, each listener will decide for oneself what he finds great, good and less successful in the reviewed recordings. For example, I enjoyed the singing of Hauck in the seldom performed BWV 164 (CD 6, tracks 1-6), while much as I admire Ristenpart, I found his version of BWV 106 (CD 9, tracks 10-17) a bit messy.

Speaking of Ristenpart's selection of cantatas, I can say that he both chose popular (cf. BWV 4, 32, 31, 42, 76, 21, 199, 56, 140, 202) and less known works that few if any conductors cared about before the period of complete cantata recordings, cf. Helmut Rilling's edition J. S. Bach: The Complete Cantatas Box. In many cases the reviewed Ristenpart's performances were the very first onces in the discography of Bach's cantatas, although they found their way to CDs only recently.

The restoration is good - these CDs sound even better than many historic accounts of Bach's cantatas recorded later.

To sum up: a valuable collection that has more than pure historical interest, though not all items are faultless.

Historic value: *****
Performances: **** / *****
Sound: ****
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Revelatory Recordings from Sixty Years Ago 29 Oct 2012
By Musiclover - Published on
These recordings, made mostly in Jesus Christ Church in Berlin from 1949 to 1952, have never before been released in any format. They were recorded as part of an effort to get RIAS Radio (Radio in the American Sector) off the ground after World War II. The conductor Karl Ristenpart (1900-1967) was the motivating force behind these recordings. This boxed set contains what are, apparently, the only surviving recordings from this project to record all of Bach's cantatas (the project was never completed, and some of the recordings from this period have not survived). On the 9 CDs, there are 28 cantatas by Bach, plus one by Telemann that had been previously thought to have been Bach's.

The recording quality is remarkable. There is virtually no tape hiss whatever (thanks to the modern engineering techniques used to prepare these recordings for their first release). All the recordings are, of course, in mono, but the sound is very clear and focused. The orchestra (the RIAS Chamber Orchestra) is small, and the two choirs employed are also on the small side, thus making Ristenpart a precursor of the modern "period" movement in classical music. Tempos are somewhat brisk, which serves Bach's music well.

For me, the highlight of the set is the chance to hear a young Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (1925-2012), the legendary German baritone. He was between the ages of 24 and 27 when these cantatas were recorded, and it is easy to hear why his voice caused such a stir at the very beginning of his career. This set was released early this year and is, as far as I know, the last recordings to be released during his lifetime.

For all those who love Bach's cantatas, and for all those who are fans of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, this 9-CD boxed set comes very highly recommended.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Highly recommended as recorded history. 15 July 2013
By Lehmanesque - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Bach has been in my life for a very long time and I can't imagine not listening to some work or other almost every day.
I am not enthused by the "KORRECKT" brigades ideas about performance practice so to hear these Cantatas from a time less worried about details and concentrating on the spirit of the works,I find them immensely satisfying.
The best Performances of Bachs Passions are ,for me,those that convey a total belief in the words....a communal recreation of one or other of the Passions.The recent rerelease of the Fritz Werner recordings is another set that has the same communal belief in the words.
Whether or not one is a believer is not the point but to perform these extraordinary works,it seems to me,that for the duration of the piece conviction singing the words is an imperative.
JEG etc,the speed freaks,give no time to allow the words to be absorbed.No doubt many will disagree with me,that is their privelige and as long as the works are comprehended I suppose that is all that matters.
The set above is from a very different time and when the situation of the world,as it was then,is taken into account the relays must have been very important to many,particularly in Germany.
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