It's hard to believe that this recording is now nearly thirty years old. Originally issued on Erato, it is now available on the bargain Apex label and worth anyone's money.
These are not the names usually associated with great Bach performances but I have rarely heard this inexhaustibly melodic and inventive music played with such evident and high-spirited relish. It does not replace my favourite traditional recording by Karl Richter with its unmatched line-up of soloists (Janowitz, Ludwig, Wunderlich and Crass) but it runs it close for sheer verve and majesty.
I have never heard Barbara Schlick so pure and silvery; indeed, at first I found the similarity of her timbre to Janowitz striking. Kurt Equiluz has a sweet, smallish but expressive tenor and is an old hand in Bach. Carolyn Watkinson's resonant mezzo is very counter-tenorish in timbre with none of the attendant disadvantages you sometimes get with that voice category; she is mellow and totally steady with a splendidly trenchant power register which never sounds plummy. Michel Brodard's "bass" is really a light baritone; he is a very musical and agile even if there is occasionally more than a hint of an aspirate in his divisions - and even Equiluz sometimes stands guilty of that venial sin. They make a fine team, all in all.
The choir is superb: precise and energised in attack, although the resonant recording acoustic robs their diction of some clarity, especially as we are far from the OVPP fad. Best of all, are the conducting of Corboz and the playing of the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra. "Who?" you might say, but they are delightful: the trumpets marvellously adept and the oboe, oboe d'amore, cor anglais and bassoon all adding a wonderfully smoky, resinous quality to the instrumental accompaniment, which is never lugubrious or treacly. Neither the chorus nor the orchestra is very big, anticipating more modern practice, but they pack plenty of heft when necessary.