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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful box
This is wonderful box of (I think) all the Bach choral recordings made by Gardiner for DG from the early 1980s to 2000. It includes the two Passions, the Christmas Oratorio, the B Minor Mass and the Magnificat, plus 12 CDs of some of Bach's greatest Cantatas. I have listed the works at the end of this review as there isn't a full listing on this page.

The...
Published on 26 May 2011 by Sid Nuncius

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12 of 48 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Diary of Gardiner of the Antarctic
"As one looks across the barren stretches of my Bach performances, it is sometimes difficult to realise what teeming life exists immediately beneath its glacial surface. Every day some new fact comes to light - some new obstacle which threatens the gravest obstruction - like traditionalists demanding that I show some genuine religiosity. I suppose this is the reason which...
Published on 17 Feb. 2012 by Bernard Michael O'Hanlon


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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful box, 26 May 2011
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Bach, J.S.: Cantatas & Sacred Masterpieces (Audio CD)
This is wonderful box of (I think) all the Bach choral recordings made by Gardiner for DG from the early 1980s to 2000. It includes the two Passions, the Christmas Oratorio, the B Minor Mass and the Magnificat, plus 12 CDs of some of Bach's greatest Cantatas. I have listed the works at the end of this review as there isn't a full listing on this page.

The whole set is simply fantastic. Gardiner's recordings of the Passions are regarded as landmarks by many people, as was the B Minor Mass, which for me is the greatest treasure of this set. 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 and Stephen Varcoe to name but a few. The orchestra and chorus sound fresh and involved, and I derive huge pleasure from the whole set. The cantata Ich Habe Genug BWV82, for example, is simply sublime and moves me deeply every single time I play it.

Gardiner seems to arouse strong passions in some musical breasts. For myself I think he's a great Bach interpreter and 22 discs of him directing some of the world's finest music at this price seems to me to be a monumental bargain. It is very nicely presented and comes with a booklet giving full track details. Libretto is available via a web page which isn't ideal but at this price I don't think one can carp, and I recommend this set wholeheartedly.

The works:

1. Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244
2. Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248
3. Saint John Passion, BWV 245
4. Mass in B minor, BWV 232
5. Magnificat in D, BWV 243

Cantatas:
6. Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, BWV 51
7. Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV 61
8. Schwingt freudig euch empor, BWV 36
9. Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV 62
10. Christen, ätzet diesen Tag, BWV 63
11. Sehet, welch eine Liebe, BWV 64
12. Christum wir sollen loben schon, BWV 121
13. Ich freue mich in dir, BWV 133
14. Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan, BWV 98
15. Wohl dem, der sich auf seinen Gott recht kindlich kann verlassen!, BWV 139
16. Herr Gott, dich loben wir, BWV 16
17. Alles nur nach Gottes Willen, BWV 72
18. Herr, wie du willt, so schicks mit mir, BWV 73
19. Was mein Gott will, das g'scheh allzeit, BWV 111
20. Ich steh' mit einem Fuss im Grabe, BWV 156
21. Erfreute Zeit im neuen Bunde, BWV 83
22. Ich habe genug, BWV 82
23. Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin, BWV 125
24. Bekennen will ich seinen Namen, BWV 200
25. Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden, BWV 6
26. Gott fähret auf mit Jauchzen, BWV 43
27. Erfreut euch, ihr Herzen, entweichet ihr Schmerzen, es lebet der Heiland, BWV 66
28. Auf Christi Himmelfahrt allein, BWV 128
29. Wer da gläubet und getauft wird, BWV 37
30. Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen, BWV 11 "Ascension Oratorio"
31. Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget ihr Saiten!, BWV 172
32. Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten, BWV 59
33. Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten, BWV 74
34. O ewiges Feuer, O Ursprung der Liebe, BWV 34
35. Was frag ich nach der Welt und allen ihren Schatten wenn ich mich nur an dir, mein Jesu, BWV 94
36. Tue Rechnung! Donnerwort, BWV 168
37. Herr, gehe nicht ins Gericht mit deinem Knecht, BWV 105
38. Siehe zu, dass deine Gottesfurcht nicht Heuchelei sei, BWV 179
39. Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut, BWV 199
40. Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut, BWV 113
41. Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140
42. Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147
43. Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste, BWV 106 "Actus tragicus"
44. Lass, Fürstin, lass noch einen Strahl, BWV 198
45. O Jesu Christ, mein Lebens Licht, BWV 118
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Bachs of Treasure, 2 Jun. 2011
By 
This review is from: Bach, J.S.: Cantatas & Sacred Masterpieces (Audio CD)
Bach is perhaps the greatest composer that ever lived, but not my personal favorite. However, Gardiner, the English Baroque Soloists, and the Monteverdi Choir have turned out some of the finest recorded performances of Baroque classical music and done so consistently for at least 25 years. I had heard some of these performances on the radio, purchased the Magnificat in D and a few of the cantatas, but never really committed to having all that much Bach in my collection. Until this box set was released. Every thing presented here on these discs is a standout in the career and collaboration of this conductor and amazing ensemble. This marvelous set includes The Christmas Oratorio, the St. John Passion, the St. Matthew Passion, and some of Gardiner's more recent recordings of the cantatas. One of the things that distinguishes these performances and sets them apart from other Baroque recordings is Gardiner's interpretation of the material, the performance of the choir, and the quality of the soloists.

Many conductors plod through Baroque standards like they are conducting to a metronome, sometimes technically perfect but lacking any emotional connection with the material. The first time I heard Gardiner's recording of Handel's Messiah, I was stunned. The man actually put dynamics - crescendos and slight tempo changes - into the Hallelujah Chorus. Simply brilliant. He has done the same thing for each of these recordings, but this is more evident in the later recordings of the cantatas. My personal favorites on the album are "Cantata # 140, Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme," the "Magnificat in D," and the "St. Matthew Passion."

As for the Monteverdi Choir, Gramophone Magazine said they are the best choir in the world. I don't what criteria they used to come to that conclusion, but my ears agree with them. Consisting of about 21 singers, they attack these pieces with flawless precision and emotional conviction that makes every listen a meaningful experience worth sitting still for, and worth repeating.

The soloists, too many to mention or list all, are knockouts, each and every one. Emma Kirkby, Nancy Argenta, Anthony Rolfe-Johnson are some of the standouts. I have listened to many Baroque choral performances, in person and recorded, where everything was perfect...except for the star soprano. The bass that couldn't execute the runs in the Messiah solos, etc, etc. or sounded like they were chain smokers, dying of emphysema, and gasping for every note. None of that here. Under Gardiner's direction they interpret the material with technical precision and heart wrenching emotion that makes the music enchanting and memorable.

Yes, you do have to go online to get the full liner notes and texts to the works. If that is a critical feature for you, you'll have to buy these separately and pay ten times the price for the material. All in all, the steal and opportunity of the century. Grab this while you can. Highly recommended.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Box Set, 7 Aug. 2012
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This review is from: Bach, J.S.: Cantatas & Sacred Masterpieces (Audio CD)
The previous couple of reviews were polarised into marvelous, wonderful, fantastic or scathing. I am in total agreement with the former, this box set of recordings of Bach Cantatas is absolutely beautiful and lives up to the reputation of John Elliot Gardiner for a translation with soul and (as I believe) wholly respects Bach's intention for how this music should be heard. I felt I had to add this review as the one negative review was extremely miss representative. In addition, this box set is v. good value for money.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the best £60 I ever spent, 30 Jun. 2013
By 
Stephen Baker - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bach, J.S.: Cantatas & Sacred Masterpieces (Audio CD)
Ridiculously good value for money. The St Matthew Passion and B Minor Mass are worth it alone and the cantatas are the equal of anything else I own. You miss some of the striking artwork of the originals but it would cost you somewhere around £300+ to buy individually.

As I write Amazon is currently selling this set for £135. That's still pretty good value, but I'm glad I don't face the dilemma - order now and start enjoying top quality Bach recordings, or wait for the price to come back down.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review, 14 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: Bach, J.S.: Cantatas & Sacred Masterpieces (Audio CD)
An older version
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 24 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: Bach, J.S.: Cantatas & Sacred Masterpieces (Audio CD)
very enjoyable
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12 of 48 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Diary of Gardiner of the Antarctic, 17 Feb. 2012
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This review is from: Bach, J.S.: Cantatas & Sacred Masterpieces (Audio CD)
"As one looks across the barren stretches of my Bach performances, it is sometimes difficult to realise what teeming life exists immediately beneath its glacial surface. Every day some new fact comes to light - some new obstacle which threatens the gravest obstruction - like traditionalists demanding that I show some genuine religiosity. I suppose this is the reason which makes the game so well worth playing."

"Great God! This is an awful place and terrible enough for us to have laboured to it without the reward of priority. This told us the whole story. The Concentus Musicus Wien has forestalled us and is first at the Pole. It is a terrible disappointment and I am very sorry for my loyal companions of the Monteverdi Choir. Many thoughts come and much discussion we have had. To-morrow we must march on the Pole, and then hasten home with all the speed we can compass. All the colour must go; it will be a wearisome performance of Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen ".

"Barbara Bonney suddenly discovered Anne Sofie von Otter's nose was frostbitten from my glacial conducting - it was white and hard. There is no doubt that Anne is a good deal run down."

"Since the 21st we have had a continuous frigid gale from my baton. We had barely enough energy to record. Every day we have been ready to start for Cantata 106 but inside the studio it remains a scene of whirling drift. I do not think we can hope for better things now. We shall stick it out to the end, but we are getting weaker of course, and the end cannot be far. It seems a pity but I do not think I can leach any more emotion from these masterpieces."

"Rolfe-Johnson's voice is in a wretched condition... The poor soldier is very nearly done. Despite the cold and awful surfaces he kept going but on March the 16th he proposed that we leave him at Cantata 82 and continue ourselves. A request we could not grant and induced him to join us in the John Passion when he ground out a few more arias. He was worse that night and went to sleep hoping not to wake, he did wake however to find a blizzard blowing in the Advent Cantatas. His last words were `I am just going outside and may be some time.' He walked out of the studio so that he would no longer be a burden to his friends who themselves were in worsening physical condition. His voice had been so bad and the process of purging the natural lustre of his voice was so painful that he didn't go through this torture and walked out to his death in his socks. We knew that poor RJ was walking to his death, but though we tried to dissuade him, we knew it was the act of a brave tenor and an English gentleman. We all hope to meet the end with a similar spirit and assuredly the end is not far."

"We are weak, writing is difficult, but for my own sake I do not regret this Bach cycle, which has shown that the English Baroque Soloists can endure hardships, scratch out the notes and meet death with as great a fortitude as ever in the past. I fear we have shot our bolt - but we have been to the Matthew Passion and undertaken the most arid journey on record. We have purged Bach of spirituality."

"Had this survey had any real humanity and devotion to it, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance and courage of my companions which would have stirred the clipped heart of every period practice devotee. These rough notes and our dead performances must tell the tale."

"The events of the day's dry sessions in the studio are now becoming so dreary and dispiriting that one longs to forget them when we camp; it is an effort even to record them in a diary. We shall stick out the DG contract to the end, but we are getting weaker of course and the end cannot be far. It seems a pity, but I do not think I can write more. For God's sake, look after my Christmas Oratorio."
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