on 26 December 2013
Karl Munchinger and his Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra had a long association with the music of J.S. Bach and recorded nearly all of his orchestral works for Decca, some of them more than once. He also recorded The Art of Fugue and all the major choral works: Passions, Mass in B minor, Magnificat, Easter Oratorio and the wonderful Christmas Oratorio, as well as some of the cantatas. Here the Christmas Oratorio receives a quite wonderful performance, full of vigour, vitality and, at the same time, quiet reflection. For those who do not want, or are allergic to, so-called authentic or historically informed performances, often, as in John Eliot Gardiner's recording, taken at break-neck speed, Munchinger's performance, alongside Eugen Jochum's superb recording, will prove to very satisfying indeed.
There is a superb team of soloists: Elly Ameling (also on Jochum's recording), Helen Watts, Sir Peter Pears and Tom Krause, all of them seasoned Bach performers. The Lubecker Kantorei sing with great precision and feeling and Munchinger's orchestra give of their very considerable best for their renowned conductor. If you do not yet possess a recording of this magnificent oratorio (really six cantatas, meant to be performed on different days throughout the Christmas season) then this one will give enormous pleasure - at any time of the year!
This recording from 1966, is one of the great Bach recordings. The six parts of the Christmas Oratorio are spread across 2CDs, with a very generous playing time of 159.07, with the split occurring after the eighth movement of the third part, the alto aria, ‘Schliesse, mein Herze’.
The Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra and the Lübecker Kantorei, chorus master Hans-Jürgen Wille, are conducted by Karl Münchinger, 1915-90, with Elly Ameling, b. 1931, Peter Pears, 1910-86, and Tom Krause, 1934-2013, singing the parts of the Angel, the Evangelist and Herod, and Helen Watts, 1927-2009, as Alto soloist. The recording was made in Schloss Ludwigsberg.
The Christmas Oratorio, comprising six individual works composed for Christmas and the subsequent festive days [the three days of Christmas, New Year’s Day and the first Sunday thereafter, and on Epiphany] was first performed over Christmas/New Year 1734/35. Many of the movements were not new compositions but were paraphrases from earlier secular works. The composer had completed almost all of his known cantatas by the time he composed this work, which might be seen as the quintessential example of his religious works.
It is hard to identify a unifying thematic strand within the work. Most of the six composite oratorios begin with a rousing chorus, most end with a chorus, but these are very different in style, and the movements number from seven to fourteen.
It goes without saying that this is a traditional performance, very much an interpretation of its day. Both Münchinger and Karl Richter, 1926-81, did much to popularise the sacred music of Bach in the middle of the last century. Here Münchinger gives great attention to detail and is more animated than Richter. I have never really warmed to Pears’ voice but must confess that in this work I am almost won over by his Evangelist – almost on a par with Kurt Equiluz, b. 1929.
Münchinger’s study of the score is evident as his awareness of contemporary baroque scholarship. The orchestral playing is particularly expressive in its accompaniment of recitatives, arias and choruses [often very effectively contrasted with the brass], in the obbligato flute, oboe and violin soloists, and in the introductory Sinfonia of the second part. The weaving together of the orchestral and solo forces, the singers - individually or in combination – and the choir is exemplary.
The spirit of the performance is evident from the dramatic, but not over-dramatic, festive chorus, ‘Jauchzet, frohlocket!, ‘Rejoice, exult!', that opens the work. The anonymous text, which describes the context of the composer’s creation of the work, ponders the ‘remarkably undramatic’ nature of the work that omits any reference to the Massacre or the Flight into Egypt.
The recording, digitally remastered in the late 1990s, is clear and responsive. The soloists’ diction is very clear and an understanding of the text is further assisted by the inclusion of the German text and an English translation. The unidentified photograph on the cover beautifully complements the music.
on 28 December 2007
01 - 1st Day - Jauchzet, Frohlocket!
02 - 1st Day - Es Begab Sich Aber Zu Der Zeit
03 - 1st Day - Nun Wird Mein Liebster Brautigam
04 - 1st Day - Bereite Dich, Zion
05 - 1st Day - Wie Soll Ich Dich Empfangen
06 - 1st Day - Und Sie Gebar Ihren Ersten Sohn
07 - 1st Day - Er Ist Auf Erden Kommen Arm / Wer Will Due Liebe Recht Erhohen
08 - 1st Day - Grosser Herr, O Starker Konig
09 - 1st Day - Ach Mein Herzliebes Jesulein
10 - 2nd Day - Sinfonia
11 - 2nd Day - Und Es Waren Hirten
12 - 2nd Day - Brich An, O Schones Morgenlicht
13 - 2nd Day - Und Der Engel Sprach Zu Ihnen
14 - 2nd Day - Was Gott Dem Abraham Verheissen
15 - 2nd Day - Frohe Hirten, Eilt, Ach Eilet
16 - 2nd Day - Und Das Habt Zum Zeichen
17 - 2nd Day - Schaut Ihn, Dort Liegt Im Finstern Stall
18 - 2nd Day - So Geht Denn Hin
19 - 2nd Day - Schlafe, Mein Liebster
20 - 2nd Day - Und Alsobald War Da Bei Dem Engel
21 - 2nd Day - Ehre Sei Gott In Der Hohe
22 - 2nd Day - So Recht, Ihr Engel
23 - 2nd Day - Wir Singen Dir In Deinem Heer
24 - 3rd Day - Herrscher Des Himmels
25 - 3rd Day - Und Da Die Engel
26 - 3rd Day - Lasset Uns Nun Gehen Gen Bethlehem
27 - 3rd Day - Er Hat Sein Volk Getrost
28 - 3rd Day - Dies Hat Er Alles Uns Getan
29 - 3rd Day - Herr, Dein Mitleid, Dein Erbarmen
30 - 3rd Day - Und Sie Kamen Eilend
31 - 3rd Day - Schliesse, Mein Herze
32 - 3rd Day - Ja, Ja, Mein Herz Soll Es Bewahren
33 - 3rd Day - Ich Will Dich Mit Fleiss Bewahren
34 - 3rd Day - Und Die Hirten Kehrten Wieder Um
35 - 3rd Day - Seid Froh Dieweil
36 - 3rd Day - Da Capo, Herrscher Des Himmels
37 - Feast Of The Circumcision - Fallt Mit Danken
38 - Feast Of The Circumcision - Und Da Acht Tage Um Waren
39 - Feast Of The Circumcision - Immanuel, O Susses Wort!uel, O Susses Wort! / Jeu, Du
Umein Liebstes Leben
40 - Feast Of The Circumcision - Flosst, Mein Heiland
41 - Feast Of The Circumcision - Wohlan, Dein Name Soll Allein
42 - Feast Of The Circumcision - Ich Will Nur Dir Zu Ehren Leben
43 - Feast Of The Circumcision - Jesus Richte Mein Beginnen
44 - 1st Sunday In The New Year - Ehre Sei Dir Gott, Gesungen
45 - 1st Sunday In The New Year - Da Jesu Geboren War Zu Bethlehem
46 - 1st Sunday In The New Year - Wo Ist Das Neugeborne Konig Der Juden? / Sucht Ihn In
47 - 1st Sunday In The New Year - Dein Glanz All Finsternis Verzehrt
48 - 1st Sunday In The New Year - Erleucht Auch Meine Finstre Sinnen
49 - 1st Sunday In The New Year - Da Das Der Konig Herodes Horte
50 - 1st Sunday In The New Year - Warum Wollt Ihr Erschrecken?
51 - 1st Sunday In The New Year - Und Liess Versammeln Alle Hohepriester
52 - 1st Sunday In The New Year - Ach, Wann Wird Die Zeit Erscheinen?
53 - 1st Sunday In The New Year - Mein Liebster Herrschet Schon
54 - 1st Sunday In The New Year - Zwar Ist Solche Herzensstube
55 - Feast Of Epiphany - Herr, Wenn Die Stolzen Feinde Schnauben
56 - Feast Of Epiphany - Da Berief Herodes Die Weisen Heimlich
57 - Feast Of Epiphany - Du Falscher, Suche Nur Den Herrn Zu Fallen
58 - Feast Of Epiphany - Nur Ein Wink Von Seinen Handen
59 - Feast Of Epiphany - Als Sei Nin Den Konig Gehoret Hatten
60 - Feast Of Epiphany - Ich Steh An Deiner Krippen Heir
61 - Feast Of Epiphany - Und Gott Befahl Ihnen Im Traum
62 - Feast Of Epiphany - So Geht! Genug, Meun Schatz Geht Nicht Von Hie
63 - Feast Of Epiphany - Nun Mogt Ihr Stolzen Feinde Shrecken
64 - Feast Of Epiphany - Was Will Der Holle Schrecken Nun
65 - Feast Of Epiphany - Nun Seid Ihr Wohl Gerochen