11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 5 March 2012
Today is V-J Day. No, not Victory over Japan - that's in August.
Victory over Jeggy.
Today, Karl Richter's performance of the Christmas Oratorio arrived in the mail and I have been playing it ever since, much to the bewilderment of the kids, the in-house Kitler and the wider neighbourhood (thanks to Ralph for the recommendation).
I don't care what the high priests of period practice think of this celebration - I've earnt my Ticket of Leave. I have done it tough in the HIP gulag since 1987 wherein my only sustenance in this work has been gruel and vinegar - and where the chef himself prances around like Cosmo Lang in front of the Royal Family.
Heavens to Betsy - twenty five years of listening to the Jeggy set: it might tip the scales against me on Judgement Day. After such knowledge, what forgiveness?
Thrillingly, this Richter set is not merely animated - it's jubilant. It has Christmas in its bones - one does not need the libretto to know what festival it is addressing. Nor is it an attempt to break the land-speed record. It is also blessed by three of the greatest singers in history - Janowitz, Ludwig and Wunderlich - and they add immeasurably to the fervour of the set. As I write, I am listening to the opening chorus of Part Five - `Ehre sei dir Gott, gesungen' and it's like I have never heard this glorious music before. And when Wunderlich trumpets the arrival of the Three Kings, one is impelled to join them in paying homage to the Christ-Child.
The recording, of 1965 vintage, is wonderful.
Temerity should never go unpunished. I am not going to sell off the Jeggy box - that's feeble. Skyrockets are banned in Australia so that option is a no-no. I will mull over its fate.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 29 January 2013
What better way to celebrate Christmas than with this classic recording of Bach's joyous masterpiece. I endorse all that has been said of this classic recording over the years, especially the vividly characterful work of the choir, and (among the soloists) Ludwig and Wunderlich. The recording is "good for its age" - occasionally unaccountably fuzzy, then suddenly thrilling again. The box, art work and documentation are all fully worthy.
So I don't have the heart to withhold five stars, but with one cavil.
Why - in the generous spread over 3 CDs - was it necessary to allow the second cantata to spill over onto the second CD? This has a claim to be the loveliest cantata of them all, and Ludwig weaves a special magic with "Schlafe, mein liebster" which is then rudely broken by having to change to the second CD for the last 5 minutes. This is especially jarring when the music of the pastoral symphony reappears for the closing chorale, giving a nice cyclic unity to the whole. What a shame!
But let me not be too ungrateful - like so much of Bach, you can feel the music doing you good even as you listen. (And thanks once again to Amazon for their excellent, swift and competitively priced service.)
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 23 December 2011
This has to be one of the best recordings in my collection. Performance is peerless, interpretation is dynamic and tasteful, and the recording is such high quality every single part in the contrapuntal style can be picked out with ease. I have to say I enjoy it so much it always gets played quite loudly!
The sheer joy Bach had celebrating the birth of Jesus shines through every note of this wonderful music.
If this is the only Bach recording you every buy, don't hesitate. If it isn't, don't hesitate. Buy it, and play it at top volume and you will emerge an hour or two later completely uplifted by the experience.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Please excuse the combination of ghastly clichés in my review title but that sums it up. Think of four of the most beautiful voices ever to come out of Germany in the last fifty years singing a joyous, upbeat masterpiece by one of the three greatest German composers, directed by the foremost, "pre-period" post-war Bach conductor and what have you got? A timeless classic of a recording.
I have played this every Christmas since I bought it, first on cassette then on CD and never tire of its irrepressible spring and ebullience. Recorded in 1965, it has to be turgid, with thick orchestral textures, marmoreal tempi, all slathered over with a gooey, reverential piety, right? Not a bit of it: from the first foot-tapping chorus "Jauchzet, frohlocket!", the listener does just that; "Rejoice, exult!" - and so it goes on. OK; I concede that one or two numbers are given too Romantic and indulgent a slow beat, but when you have singers possessing the kind of magisterial breath control evinced by such as Christa Ludwig and Fritz Wunderlich, you can relax and enjoy their phrasing and warm flow of sound. The small orchestra and choir are tangy and snappy in their phrasing and I miss "authenticity" - whatever that is - not a bit.
By all means enjoy more modern, informed practice - but listen to this one, too.