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on 15 January 2002
This is a most generous collection of two well-filled (each disc more than exceeds 70 minutes) CDs featuring six of Bach's most expressive cantatas.I have always been very fond of Karl Richter's marvellous and moving 1961 recording (simply the best of all,I feel)of BWV 147,and you will find it here in all it's glory.Anyone just starting out to explore Bach's superbly rewarding and enriching canon of sacred cantatas could not do better than start their voyage here.From the joyful opening chorus,"Herz und mund und tat und leben" to the justly famous "Jesu,joy of man's desiring" chorale that concludes it;you have a musical experience that will undoubtedly leave you ravenous for more of the same.Luckily,you can then immediately tuck into the sublime BWV 140.Everyone surely knows it as the "Sleepers awake" cantata,but it also features a couple of really attractive duets for soprano (as the soul) and bass (as Jesus).Edith Mathis and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau are excellent here,and in the second of these duets,"Mein freund ist mein !" (My beloved is mine !) the obbligato oboe (Manfred Clement) is just heavenly.
BWV 51,"Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen" (Rejoice in the Lord in all lands !) is a cantata that could not be more exuberant if it tried,with that astonishingly virtuosic interplay between soprano and trumpet.Maria Stader and Willi Bauer make a damn good pairing here,but when it comes to a first recommendation of this brilliant little cantata,I would always come down strongly in favour of the Emma Kirkby tour de force for Sir John Eliot Gardiner.Still,this is not too bad to be going on with.
In the remaining two sacred cantatas,
BWV 4,"Christ lag in todesbanden"(Christ lay in the clutches of death) and BWV 56,"Ich will den kreuzstab gerne tragen"(Gladly I bear the cross) Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau amply displays the vocal qualities and interpretative intelligence that leaves us,three decades later,in no doubt as to why he is considered such a legend.
The final cantata BWV 202,"Weichet nur,betrubte schatten" (Hence dismal shadows) is a quite charming and disarming musical endorsement for wedded bliss,and despite it's recording vintage of 1959 comes up bright and breezy in this particular transfer.It's a nicely varied piece,and the highlight for me is that jewel of a soprano (Maria Stader once more,and a dozen years earlier !) aria,"Sich uben in lieben" (To be loving to one another).
To conclude then:this is a very generous package of cantatas that richly deserve the epithet "famous".Perhaps in one or two instances the period performance movement of recent times is able to shine a brighter spotlight upon Bach's genius,but overall Karl Richter and his luminescent lie-up of vocal and instrumental stars deliver performances that have more than stood the test of time,and as a result make this two disc set a compulsory purchase.
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on 19 June 2011
This set has three great virtues. I would not go to the proverbial desert island without them

First, the sound quality. On the original vinyl, the awesome supulchral thunder of the descending string bass line in the overture to #4 was superb. But the first-generation CD transfer was worthless. The thundering low strings in the opening, the mavelous open quality of the SA choral duet, etc. and etc. just were not there. In was all grey pablum blah. But this CD version is unbelievable. The best qualities of the vinyl are still there, cubed. Presuming you have a quality sound system, you have only to listen to the the rich opening notes of the lower strings to know THIS IS IT. The package says this transfer is made with "Original-Image Bit" technology. Whatever that is, I want more of it.

Turning now to the specifics: Cantata 4 is superb in every way. Not only the string sound I discuss above, but every aspect of the performance. Fischer-Dieskau in his prime is not only vocally supreme (even though his low F is a bit of a stretch) but his interpretation is intense and definitive. Richter's choir and orchestra are also beyond perfect. The choral soprano-alto duet is peaceful beauty to the highest degree.

51: Maria Stader is worth a serious listen. Her technique is fully up to this difficult piece. Her vocal color is very bright, in a way that doesn't come through in her superb recordings of the b minor and the Mozart Coronation Mass. This is not a thin boyish brightness like Emma Kirby. It is a mature adult soprano sound that is also brighter than most. Either you like it or you don't. I like it. But I freely admit to liking Auger's rendition better.

The other cantatas are well performed, both musically and technically. But I am put off by the soprano-dominated choral sound which all too frequently plagued Richter's chorus. Each of the four voices should be heard with equal clarity, and that is not the case here. So I don't expect to listen to them much. But #4 alone is well worth the price of this entire set.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 10 September 2011
A happy collection of six popular cantatas ideal for anyone wearied by the scrawny sonorities of the period instrument brigade. On the debit side, one or two of the choral movements under Richter are rather stately but if this is big band Bach it is pure Bach in so far as this is the Munich Bach Orchestra and not Bach being played by some metropolitan symphony orchestra; never do the instrumentalists overwhelm the voices, everything emerges with clarity and warmth, conviction and devotion. The choir, which I'm guessing mixes adults and children, sounds more authentically congregational than the small professional blanched groups often heard today. More inclusive in a way: less elitist.

Another great advantage to this twofer is the list of topping soloists, including Fischer-Dieskau, Schreier and Mathis, but standing proud for this listener is Maria Stader. Buy this if only to receive her superlative performance of BWV 51, Jauchzet Gott in allen landen. No other soprano can match her joyous performance, truly elatory in a way that makes other singers sound academic, even anaemic, by comparison. The velvety tones of Fischer-Dieskau are a great boon to any cantata and the fulsome string tone of the Munic Bach Orchestra makes the most of the great orchestral highlights of Wachet auf! and Herz und Mund.

Sung texts and a biographical note on the conductor are provided. Sound quality is excellent.
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on 23 December 2011
Being ancient, I have had the privilege of hearing the late Professor Richter live on a number of occasions. Without doubt, he was a great Bachian, although I had reservations about his interpretations. To my ears (and I emphasise that) these classic recordings haven't worn well. To me, they are too heavy and ponderous. It's not that they don't have great soloists and playing, they do (who can compare with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in his prime?), but I much prefer the later, lighter, livelier approach to Bach that came with the "original instruments" movement in the 1970s. The trailblazers Harnoncourt and Leonhardt, and those who followed, especially Suzuki and Gardiner, have made much better versions. Having said that, I appreciate that there are people who prefer the Richter approach (although I would still direct them to the recordings of Rilling and Werner), and if so, these are the recordings for them. The title is merited - the set contains the "Big Two", 140 and 147, plus the solo cantata 51 with its wonderful trumpet obbligato. This is simply wonderful music, to be enjoyed in whatever interpretation you prefer. For me, this set, while still enjoyable for some wonderful singing, is largely a historical document.
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on 15 April 2014
I got this because I have no CDs of Richter, plenty of CDs of Cantatas (JSBach) and, as an experiment, I wondered what he did with them that JEGardiner did not ?

Well, they ARE 'dated'. But historically important. Musicologically. They reminded me of the progress that has taken place in this are of music research over many decades. Very Good.

They also are good as a 'stand-alone' example of Richter/Bach Cantatas.
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on 22 June 2010
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was surely among the greatest geniuses of music history even though the concept of genius was not identified in his time. Bach, who once spent a night in jail over a fight about music, was such a genius he could play all the instruments and sing all the parts. It is, then, no wonder he could produce more than 200 cantatas for performance of such staggering quality that they have been recorded again and again. Four of five complete sets now dot the musical landscape for persons wishing to test the entire ouevre.

This twofer of Karl Richter's recordings for DG features some of DG's most famous contract singers of the era including Dietrich Fischer Diesaku, Peter Schreier, Edith Mathis and Maria Stader. These weren't the only great Bach singers of the time but they were among them.

Richter was a kapellmeister in Munich that made these recordings with his ensemble in that city. These are latter day recordings mad from 1959 (BWV 202) through 1978 (BWV 140). For me, the best this collection has to offer are 140 and BWV 56, Fischer Dieskau's second recording of "I will gladly carry the cross staff." Stader's reading of the pyrotechnic BWV 51 is not in the same league either as a recording or as a performance. Of the recordings on the second CD, BWV 147 is perhaps best.

Richter has a well-earned reputation for Bach performance and interpretation even though he was not the only recording artist making a name in Bach in that era. Felix Prohaska was another Bach conductor that, with Alfred Deller and other specialists, made some outstanding recordings in the 1950s for Vanguard Cantatas. Conductor Helmuth Rilling began his assessment of the Bach repertory in the 1960s and recorded many of the cantatas more than once. His final word came in the Bach Cantata edition for hanssler classics that reached the pinnacle in the Bach celebration of 2000.

Some of Rilling's best recordings mimicked these Richter selections. One in particular that has always been in my collection was his 1985 CD of BWV 51, 56 and 82, with the latter pair sung for the final time by Fischer Dieskau and the former by the late, great Arlene Auger Bach: Cantatas, Vol 4 (BWV 51, 56, 82) /Rilling. Another great collectin from Rilling featured BWV 147 from the Richter collection mated to BWV 71 (God is my sovereign <or king>) and 192 (Now thank ye all our God) Bach: Cantatas, Vol 12 (BWV 147, 71, 192) /Rilling. These recordings are no longer available in their original pressings but can be acquired used through Amazon vendors. They are probably available in the complete series on hannsler classics mated to other music.

While I prefer the Rilling and Prohaska recordings, the Richter makes a fine package of mementos from a time when Bach practice still included interpreting the content of the music and not just the playing style. Some of today's authenticists don't seem to understand that the text in Bach's cantatas address the most important issues on the planet -- death, resignation, life forever and absolution. One thing Richter and Rilling always knew is you performeed this music in the spirit of the text, not in the spirit of academic interest with the singers using the same techniques they'd use in a pop song with a message to their girlfriends. For me, this is the lasting benefit of this set.
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on 27 October 2013
Anything written by JS Bach is going to be good and these recordings did not disappoint me. Some of the soloists fell a little short of superb though which is why I gave it four stars rather than five. However, I am very pleased with the purchase.
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on 4 November 2013
You can never go wrong with all your favorite old collections and master pieces. I now know where to find those collections I misplaced years ago. Amazon did it for me on this collection
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on 19 August 2015
Good sound and excellent value. However I tend to agree with Teemacs that the recording is a bit too heavy and ponderous for the cantatas (at least to my taste).
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on 8 March 2016
Pleased with this cd was a present for a friend
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