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The other reviews here show that this is obviously a Marmite set - you either love it or you hate it. Me, I love it I treasure it and play it often. In such circumstances another review may not be of that much help to an undecided prospective purchaser because you can't know in advance whose taste you share, but for what it's worth:

The treasure of this set for me is the B Minor Mass. It has been described as the greatest work of art in any medium ever and while that may be a rather overblown claim it isn't wholly indefensible. Gardiner's interpretation does it proud. It has intensity, intellectual weight, a deep respect for the work and, above all, radiant beauty. I love it. I also have the Andrew Parrott recording (now available very reasonably on Virgin Veritas) and treasure the two equally. I've heard quite a few others which I don't like as much. There isn't a single correct way to do the B Minor Mass and your taste may not coincide with mine, but if you're looking for a really fine recording I don't think you can go wrong with Gardiner (or Parrott, for that matter).

I'm less qualified to compare versions of the other great works in this box as these are the only recordings I own and listen to in detail. Probably the reason for this is that I'm extremely happy with them. I've heard others which I have liked very much, and the Gardiner versions seem to me to stand up with the best of them. The singers in this set are simply fantastic - Nancy Argenta, Anne Sophie von Otter, Barbara Bonney, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Stephen Varcoe to name but a few. The orchestra and chorus sound fresh and involved, and I derive huge pleasure from the whole set.

Gardiner seems to arouse strong passions in some musical breasts - one Amazon reviewer has written scathingly of both his Santiago discs, for example, which I think are sublime. For myself I think he's a great Bach interpreter and nine discs of him directing some of the world's finest music at this price seems to me to be a monumental bargain. I can see that some knowledgeable and passionate music lovers here have grave reservations but I, like the great majority of professional reviewers did, recommend this set wholeheartedly.
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on 12 September 2006
Ever since listening to St. John Passion as a young boy, I always had respect for Bach's music and classical music as a whole. However, until taking a small risk and buying this set, I steered clear of Bach unless it was impossible to do so. Having to study Baroque music at university this year gave me the real impetus to do so and I don't regret it for a second. This boxset is now my most treasured musical possession and I can't stop listening to the 4 great works contained within. The opening movements of each work are reason enough to buy the set on its own, but when you listen to them all as I was compelled to do, you discover that under the contrapuntal surface of Bach lies a genius who is capable of bringing out the fire in one's heart and moving you at the same time. At 22 pounds i thought this was a bargain as they are 20 pounds separately, saving you a lot of money.

The conducting from John Eliot Gardiner is again top-notch with the soloists, choir and orchestra doing the works supreme justice. The only downside is that there are no libretti, but no doubt they could be found on-line or even by buying the scores.

If you don't know Bach or you don't own these works, I would suggest that you start here, since at this price you really can't go wrong.
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on 10 September 2009
Almost every day I play part of this set!
My favorite is the B Minor Mass which has been described as the greatest work of music ever composed.
Gardiner's interpretations are superb and are played with a verve and vitality missing from so many "Germanic" versions.
The singers in this set are top notch - Nancy Argenta, Anne Sophie von Otter, Barbara Bonney, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Stephen Varcoe to name just a few, along with the English Baroque Soloists and the Monteverdi Choir give of their very best. Under John Eliot Gardiner they sound fresh and involved giving all the works splendid performances.
This particular set, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner is one of definitive performances - he captures the dance-like spirit of Bach convincingly and the slower sections are given breadth without becoming dull.
The nine disc set comes with a comprehensive booklet with essays on the works - if you require libretti, these are readily available at : [...]
John Eliot Gardiner is one of the finest Bach interpreters around today and this nine disc set is a bargain even at full price.
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on 9 May 2015
JEG is the most original and sincere interpreter of Bach's music. In particular his direction of the choral sections is breathtaking, occasionally making me wonder whether I have heard what should be a familiar passage before. The Passions are played with a fervent intensity and understanding of the spiritual message of compassion for human suffering and the redemption of ethereal peace which imbue Bach's masterpieces in this form. The Christmas Oratorio sees JEG bring out the joyous energy of the choruses and an earthy period instrument simplicity to the wonderful arias.

It is of course the B Minor Mass which brings all this together in an astonishing way. The Kyrie is introduced with single voices, the choir joining to add layers of texture and intensity. JEG brings out each texture of the choral writing with great insight, and the Gratias Amas/Angus Dei the most profound piece of music making I have heard.
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on 1 August 2011
These are enjoyable recordings, if a bit too 'polished' for some. For me, the dignity in Bach's music is in the clarity of structure and restraint. Heart and soul can be found in the care taken to present a faithful recording of the score. Therefore I find these performances far from emotionally cold. I'm not the biggest fan of Gardiner, so I was pleasantly surprised.
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on 24 July 2006
Sir John Eliot's recordings of Bach are simply among the finest performances of music captured on record. This particular set of works are in a word definitive - he captures the dance-like spirit of Bach convincingly (unlike so many others), and the grandiose sections are given breadth without becoming dull. The singing is exemplary, as is the orchestral playing.

Of course, the nature of such a valuable and inexpensive box as this (which comes with a huge booklet containing the essays on the works from the original releases) makes the purchase compulsory!
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on 28 December 2014
A wonderful performance from a quite astonishing choir that will delight anyone who enjoys this kind of thing
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on 5 April 2007
Believe me - I LOVE a good period instrument performance.

But my introduction to the wonderful, inspiring, deep, soulful and noble choral works of Bach started, unfortunately, with John Eliot Gardiner's brassy and ludicrously overrated recording of the Mass in B Minor.

As a result I went several years thinking I didn't like Bach. Then one day I purchased the recording (also on period intruments) by Thomas Hengelbrock, what a revelation - nobility, depth, poise, beauty. Likewise with the extreme one-voice per part Rifkin recording, and the more traditional Peter Schreier-conducted (Philips), the list goes on, wonderful, wonderful depths are to be plumbed in Bach's choral music, and although Gardiner is to be applauded for his patronisation of the cause of Bach, his recordings barely seem to scratch the surface of these noble conceptions. I cannot now fathom the UK music reviewers' glowing reviews of these recordings - I would suggest that those who feel these are 'simply the best' should try other recordings, but perhaps people just have different tastes....

I thus find myself strongly empathising with those who have given it 1 star, but I do feel this is unfair, as there is no arguing with the techical mastery of Gardiner's forces, especially the choir. However, I find 5 stars equally inappropriate, as there is simply no soul, to my ears. I have thus given it 2 stars - I was going to give it 3 but the MBM recording is guilty of pushing me away from Bach for several years, which I now find unforgivable.

I have found ONE Gardiner disk in Bach which is wonderful (DG Bach cantata pilgramage with Magdalena Kozena). But having listened to the SMP and various cantatas, I am VERY wary of Gardiner's Bach and all the disturbingly positive reviews that I cannot in all honestly understand. There is, simply, to me, no soul in this box set of Bach choral works by Gardiner, but if all you want is the notes, clinically played, then buy it, but you're not listening to the same Bach as an awful lot of us.
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on 5 December 2009
A superb introduction to Bach Choral music. A delight to listen to and what a bargain price..love it
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on 13 November 2006
Ignore the person who gave this a 1 star review. It's simply ridiculous to give it such a low rating. I can understand the variability of taste but there's nothing here that's a 1 star effort. Having listened to these recordings over the pass 10 years, I have nothing but the highest regard for them as they continue to reward those with a sense of proportion and passion. I unreservedly recommend this recording for anyone looking to understand the inner beauty of Bach's choral masterpieces
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