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Christmas Oratorio (Ameling, Baker, Tear, Fischer-Dieskau, King's College Choir, Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Sir Philip Ledger)
Christmas Oratorio (Ameling, Baker, Tear, Fischer-Dieskau, King's College Choir, Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Sir Philip Ledger)
Price: £3.99

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A performance of great distinction, 7 Feb 2012
I first wrote this about an earlier issue of this recording, which seems no longer to be available, so I reproduce it here.

I have always considered the sound of the King's College Choir to be too lightweight and polite, and in this recording their German pronunciation is sometimes awry. Having got that off my chest, I can say that everything else about this performance is splendid. The playing of the Academy of St Martins is impeccable, Philip Ledger's direction inspired, with tempi just right (except for the Lullaby in Part 2 which might have been better slightly slower) and the soloists seem ideally suited to this music. Robert Tear is a persuasive, declamatory Evangelist and sings his arias with great feeling, and Elly Ameling is beautifully radiant. It is almost needless to say that Janet Baker and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau give performances of real distinction. His "Grosser Herr" in Part 1 will make you sit up and listen, but his delicate accompanied recitatives are even more moving. I find Janet Baker's "Schliesse mein Herz" in Part 3 to be her best aria here, although the others are also admirable. EMI's recording is of the best, and has overcome most of the notorious reverberation of King's College Chapel.

This is some of Bach's most joyful music, and this performance will cheer you up on the darkest of winter days.


Bach: Mass in B Minor
Bach: Mass in B Minor
Price: £13.35

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Profound and revelatory, 7 Feb 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Bach: Mass in B Minor (Audio CD)
According to the booklet, Otto Klemperer considered the Mass in B minor to be the greatest music ever written. Accordingly he put all his long experience into the production of this recording, insisting on reduced forces and soloists whose voices would suit the music. The BBC Chorus and New Philharmonia were possibly the best in Britain at the time, and it is hardly possible to imagine a better team of soloists. EMI's engineers also did a good job, although there is some congestion in the loudest passages.

The first Kyrie is taken at about crotchet/quarter-note = 40, which seems painfully slow at first, but have patience and listen to the gradual unfolding of this magnificent fugue. Klemperer had the ability to convince the listener that his way was right, no matter how unconventional. Thereafter, the tempi are generally more as usually heard, and in those other sections which are taken slowly, again listen and be convinced.

The possible downside of this performance is that in some movements the players sound to be unfamiliar with Bach's style (perhaps they were at that time) and there is, to me at least, a certain sense of struggle. It is possible that this is what Klemperer wanted, but nowhere is there an easy fluency such as Richter achieves with his Munich orchestra. The choir is excellent and the soloists are beyond reproach.

This interpretation has depth, grandeur, majesty in abundance and magnificent solo/duet singing, Janet Baker's Agnus Dei especially. Recommended, but if you like more vitality and joy in your Mass, listen to Richter.


J. S. Bach: Mass in B minor
J. S. Bach: Mass in B minor
Price: £13.03

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 50 years old and still a front-runner!, 7 Feb 2012
The distinguished Bach scholar Karl Richter created his own distinctive path in the rediscovery of J S Bach's music. His Munich Bach Orchestra and Choir were an essential part of this, and their extensive experience of Bach's music was such that they completely overcame the formidable difficulties of the Mass in B minor, and on this recording they play with a fluency and beauty which is rare even today. It is still one of the best available even after 50 years. The recording may not be as good as the best of today's but is perfectly adequate and only in the loudest tuttis is there a lack of clarity. The only "star" soloist is Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, whom it is wonderful to hear in "Et in Spiritum Sanctum", but the others are very good and well-suited to the music.

I also know the recordings by Klemperer, Münchinger, Jochum, Gardiner and Harnoncourt, and all these are worth hearing, but I find that only Klemperer comes close to matching Richter's achievement - and that is in a very different way. Klemperer brings out the grandeur and depth of Bach's vision, Richter communicates joy and light. Your foot will be tapping in every one of the faster movements when you listen to Richter. Not that it is in anyway lightweight: the majesty is there throughout. Unreservedly recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 1, 2012 4:36 AM BST


Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde
Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde
Price: £7.02

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Haitink strikes again!, 5 Jan 2012
This ought to be a world-beater but it isn't. The Philips engineers have captured the superb playing of the Concertgebouw Orchestra to perfection and every detail of Mahler's score is revealed. The fly in the technical ointment is that James King's microphone is over-amplified, and so his singing is almost painfully "in your face", detracting from an otherwise fine performance. Mercifully Janet Baker does not get that treatment, except momentarily in "Der Einsame", and she is at her best, bringing passion to "Von der Jugend" and exquisite sensitivity to "Der Abschied".

Yet the whole thing fails to convince. There is a certain lack of tension, perhaps best exemplified in the final movement, where the ominous darkness does not descend as it should (Tennstedt is superb in that respect). Maybe the fault lies within me, but I have found Haitink's Mahler to be restrained, even understated in some of the symphonies, and I must conclude that this is another example.

This disc is worth having, but for something really convincing, go to Kubelik (also with Janet Baker), Tennstedt or best of all, Klemperer with Fritz Wunderlich and Christa Ludwig. Or if you can stand a third-rate recording, Bruno Walter with Kathleen Ferrier.


Verdi: Messa Da Requiem - Sony Classical Masters
Verdi: Messa Da Requiem - Sony Classical Masters
Price: £6.99

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not a first choice, 4 Jan 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Never having been a fan of Solti, I bought this disc solely to hear Janet Baker in this fantastic music. In that respect I was not disappointed; she sings the mezzo solo "Liber scriptus" wonderfully and no less so in the duet "Recordare" and the other ensembles. Jose van Dam is also very moving and well-suited to this work. Unfortunately I cannot enthuse over Leontine Price or Veriano Lucchetti. Price constantly scoops from one note to the next (portamento is too polite a term), and her lower range, heard especially in the "Libera me", lacks depth. Lucchetti is also disappointing, with vague starts to musical phrases and a general lack of subtlety.

The Chicago Symphony Chorus is excellent; choruses do not come much better than this. Likewise the orchestra, and the combination in the eight-part fugal "Sanctus" is beautifully clear - until the brass enters. The recording gives the brass far too much prominence, so that when they are playing loudly the rest is obscured. Because of this, the "Tuba mirum" is not as frightening as it should be, indeed it is difficult to hear much of the important chorus parts in that section. Aside from that, the recording captures Verdi's wide-ranging dynamics, from the quiet mood of the opening to the enormous drum-beats in the "Dies irae" very well.

With the whole work on one disc, this is a great bargain, but even so I would not have this as a first choice. Buy it for Baker, van Dam and the chorus, but listen also to Abbado (with the Berlin Phil) and Giulini. Both are currently only a few pounds more, and with Giulini you get the Four Sacred Pieces as well.


Beethoven: Missa solemnis; Mass Op. 86
Beethoven: Missa solemnis; Mass Op. 86
Price: £9.99

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars from the Heart, to the Heart, 3 Jan 2012
I endorse R C Ross's comments about the Mass in D major. I too have known Klemperer's performance for many years and did not expect to hear it bettered, but Giulini is at least his equal here. It is smoother and more polished than Klemperer's but this does not detract, rather it enhances the nobility and beauty of this work, and the recording is much better. A point of difference is that Klemperer assigns the "pleni sunt caeli" section of the Sanctus to the soloists, while Giulini sensibly gives it to the chorus. This matter has always been controversial, with some editions of the score saying one thing and some the other, but with the full orchestra playing forte, the power of the chorus is needed to balance it - and it simply sounds more convincing.

I have loved the Mass in C major for years. It is far less well known than the Missa Solemnis, although it does not deserve to be. Beethoven wrote it during that most productive "middle" period, around the time of his Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, although its musical language is more restrained, more akin to that of the Fourth Piano Concerto. It is a tuneful and immediately accessible work, showing all Beethoven's mastery without the sense of strain that characterises the later work. Janet Baker is once again the alto soloist, Elly Ameling is the soprano, but the men I had not come across before. They all blend together well, so important in works like these, where there are no arias but only ensembles for the soloists. Giulini lovingly brings out every nuance of the music but does not get in its way. No point in my saying more, if you do not know this work, get it - and this is the version to get.

Beethoven said of his Missa Solemnis "from the heart, may it go to the heart". Carlo Maria Giulini has certainly achieved that with both these Masses.


Bach - Christmas Oratorio
Bach - Christmas Oratorio
Offered by Direct Entertainment UK
Price: £19.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A performance of great distinction, 24 Dec 2011
I have always considered the sound of the King's College Choir to be too refined and polite for my taste, and in this recording their German pronunciation is sometimes awry. Having got that off my chest, I can say that everything else about this performance is splendid. The playing of the Academy of St Martins is impeccable, Philip Ledger's direction inspired, with tempi just right (except for the Lullaby in Part 2 which might have been better slightly slower) and the soloists seem ideally suited to this music. Robert Tear is a persuasive, declamatory Evangelist and sings his arias with great feeling, and Elly Ameling is beautifully radiant. It is almost needless to say that Janet Baker and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau give performances of real distinction. His "Grosser Herr" in Part 1 will make you sit up and listen, but his delicate accompanied recitatives are even more moving. I find Janet Baker's "Schliesse mein Herz" in Part 3 to be her best aria here, although the others are also admirable. EMI's recording is of the best, and has overcome most of the notorious reverberation of King's College Chapel.

There are some mistakes in the track listings in the booklet, but that is a quibble. This is some of Bach's most joyful music, and this performance will cheer you up on the darkest of winter days.


A Pageant of English Song 1597-1961
A Pageant of English Song 1597-1961

5.0 out of 5 stars What, no CD?, 21 Dec 2011
I can scarcely believe that this has not been re-issued as it stands on CD. Of all the many recordings I have of Dame Janet, this stands highest in my esteem. It is simply beautiful. The range of songs, from Dowland to Britten, demonstrates the achievement of English composers throughout the ages and it is hardly possible to imagine better performances of them. The more modern songs are accompanied by Gerald Moore, the earlier by Martin Isepp (harpsichord) and Robert Spencer (lute). Looking through the catalogue I see that some of them have been reissued in box sets, but this is such an outstanding collection that it deserves a CD to itself, possibly with a few other songs to make weight. Come on, EMI...

If you have vinyl replay equipment and do not already own this record, get it!


Mahler: Kindertotenlieder; Rückert-Lieder; Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
Mahler: Kindertotenlieder; Rückert-Lieder; Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
Price: £8.78

5.0 out of 5 stars I'm converted, 16 Dec 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I have treasured Janet Baker's performance of the Rückert-lieder for many years (coupled with Elgar's Sea Pictures on vinyl) but have up to now resisted buying her other Mahler song-cycles, believing those to be suitable only for a male singer, and have similarly treasured Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's interpretations of them. However having listened to these Wayfarer songs and Kindertotenlieder, some 40 years after their first issue, I now see what I have been missing. One soon forgets the possible absurdity of a woman singing from the viewpoint of a jilted lover and a bereaved father respectively. Janet Baker's art simply transcends such considerations. This is Lieder singing of the highest quality, coupled with superb playing from John Barbirolli's orchestras. I had not heard the separate recording of Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen with the Hallé before; it is even better than the one in the group of five with the Philharmonia. The recording remains excellent and so I give this the highest recommendation. But hear Fischer-Dieskau as well.


Schubert - Lieder
Schubert - Lieder
Offered by music_by_mail_uk
Price: £24.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite, 10 Dec 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Schubert - Lieder (Audio CD)
These CDs contain 42 Schubert songs recorded by Janet Baker, 30 with Gerald Moore in 1970, and 12 with Geoffrey Parsons in 1980. Surprisingly, the later ones are not so well recorded (or digitised), with slight distortion audible in places. But that is a quibble - and I am very fussy about recording quality. I cannot imagine any performances more beautifully, intelligently and movingly sung than these. I have recordings of many of these songs by other singers, including Christa Ludwig and Gundula Janowitz, which are wholly recommendable in themselves, but Janet Baker outclasses them. Particularly outstanding is the intensity she brings to the pianissimos, at whatever pitch, something which few singers achieve. "And it is in his pianissimos that Schubert reveals his true nature" (I think it was the great Schubertian pianist Wilhelm Kempff who said that).

These discs are a "must" for all lovers of Schubert or admirers of Janet Baker. There are no texts included, but if you do not already have them, they are readily found on the web, e.g. on the "Lied and Art Song Texts Page".


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