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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 5 November 2012
Not only is this collection significantly cheaper than any other, in my view it's way superior to its competitors. For a start you get not only the sacred cantatas but the secular ones too plus other bits and bobs. The recording quality is superb throughout, and I speak as one who began his professional life as a sound recording engineer and has worked professionally with sound recording ever since. The soloists are all first-class, which is more than can be said for various other collections I've tried over the years where the quality of the singing has been very variable and often downright poor. Pace the remarks of some earlier reviewers (whose reviews seem to have disappeared!), Rilling's tempi seem absolutely spot on to me. One reviewer described them as turgid; I have no idea where they got that from. Take the aria 'Nun Verschwinden alla Plagen' from BWV 32 as an example. Rilling's version is actually the fastest but it's not too fast: his tempo is exactly right for the conveying the rhythmic locomotive power of the aria. It is everyone else's versions that tip over into turgidity. Whichever way you look it, this is a fantastic buy, and probably the best musical purchase I will ever have made. But I notice they keep putting the price up -- let's hope Hanseller don't get too greedy. It's wonderful to have this collection accessible to ordinary pockets.
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on 20 September 2011
Grab this before the sellers change their minds about the price...

Helmuth Rilling was the first person ever to record all the cantatas. He actually didn't set out with this in mind, but it sort of worked out that way. The whole thing took over 20 years to do, and the later performances were more informed by the growing knowledge of and interest in period performance. Nevertheless, these are played on modern instruments with a choir with female singers and using female soloists (including Arleen Auger, who sang in many of them). This, of course, will not appeal to folk who like "authentic" performance, but the fact of the matter is that we can never have truly authentic performance, and it's a delusion to think otherwise. In any case, I have always thought that Bach is music for eternity, to be played in the spirit in which it is written, and not confined to a musical straitjacket.

Rilling was a great Bachian, and this set is outstandingly musical, an absolute joy. I personally regard some of these cantatas to be the best versions available anywhere - ones that come to mind are BWV129, BWV90 and BWV148. The others are also all splendid. They are different from my other sets (complete Gardiner and Leusink, and various Koopman, Suzuki, Werner and Harnoncourt), but every bit as enjoyable. And at this price they're a bargain. If I didn't already have them all, I'd snap this up. Go snapping.
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on 27 October 2012
this set of the complete cantatas is simply an inspirational bargain. Full warm singing and playing, with great stereo sound..... like being in the conductor's position. Also great to have fabulous sopranos singing their hearts out. The best and greatest bargain I have ever purchased in CD audio format by a long way. As per the comments of the previous reviewer, this is astonishingly and ravishingly joyous music, disc after disc after disc. I am a fan of Gardiner's cantatas, but this is such an affordable complete set, is very different in a big hearted way, and is certainly every bit as good if not better. Just wonderful music, so warm, so joyful, so full-hearted !
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 29 July 2013
There are a few good Bach cantatas, in my opinion, and this is one of the best ones.

The box set is simple and "budget" but very well organised. It has 60 cds with the sacred cantatas on red discs and 11 cds with
secular cantatas on blue discs. They have a big number making it very easy to find out what you are looking for. They don't call cd one, two etc but volume one, two...
volume 69 is formed by cd 1 and 2 so you have 69 volumes but 70 css.

The 72th disc is a cdrom with texts for all songs , a biography and a complete track list. Texts for songs are in German, English, French and Spanish.
I have mac but the cd rom is for windows. Fortunately, it is not a problem because Hänssler also thought about that. All you need to do is to open the cdrom and look for a pdf for macs. You can copy it to your mac
and you will have all texts, biography and track list. I don't know if the cd rom has content that is accessible only for PCs but it doesn't really matter because all the important stuff
is available in the pdf for macs.

There are also two booklets, one with an introduction to the set and one with a complete track list, which is reproduced in the cd rom , showing
how more considerate Hännsler is than bigger companies such as Deutsche Grammophone.

The technical quality of sound and playing seemed very good to me. The performers are German so the singing is more natural and they don't force
guttural sounds like Gardiner's British performers do.

Unfortunately I made the mistake of ordering from a seller different from Amazon UK itself and my box set arrived looking like it had a previous owner
so I returned it. I also ordered Harnoncourt and am now in doubt between those two sets and Suzuki's. Music is not my main "thing", let's say, so I
don't think I will have more than one cantata as some reviewers have. My doubt there is just aesthetical because Suzuki is out of the equation for me as
It is ridiculously expensive now because is out of print. But I am glad that I narrowed cantatas collections down to only three after a personal and thorough research.

Cantatas that I tried but didn't interest me were Koopman, the one from Brilliant Classics and Gardiner. Gardiner's cantatas sound like a Broadway show rather than
music "written to exalt the glory of God and to encourage Lutheran worship".

I am not religious but I see as a cultural dumbing down the conversion of sacred songs to secular ones played liked flashing colourful lights.

I am still searching for other cantatas but it is likely that I will end up choosing Harnoncourt. The technical quality is inferior to other cantatas, especially Gardiner and Suzuki,
but the singing is more convincing, it has more soul. Besides, it uses only male voices, in the way Bach imagined the cantatas. Women's voices are more beautiful and more "complete" than boy's voices
but there is a much stronger contrast between women's and male's voices than male's and boys' voices. Bach, the utmost musician ( although sometimes I think it was Beethoven ), wasn't in the business of
"one size fits all" so if he wrote the cantatas for males and boys' voices this is the way I prefer to listen to them.

But Harnoncourt box set is too bare and, unlike this one, doesn't have secular cantatas or even texts for the songs. The technical quality of sound and the playing of instruments is not as good as in this box set but, to my ears, Harnoncourt offers the
best, more convincing Bach experience. Harnoncourt lacks in technical quality but, I think, it has more soul and emotion than any other cantata that I listened to.

If you don't care about who is singing (women or boys) and want a better technical quality than Harnoncourt then
this Rilling box set is the best option. Unless you can afford to spend £700 on Suzuki's cantatas.

P.S. I changed my mind and will order this box set again, even if I end up with two collections of cantatas. I will do that because Hänssler showed a concern for its customers that I don't see
in giant recording labels such as Universal and Warner or, for that matter, smaller companies such as Harmonia Mundi. Thank you, Hänssler!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 18 November 2014
Complete cantatas with very fine soloists and exceptional all German speaking chorus. If you want a complete set of all the cantatas played on traditional instruments by a conductor who is also very familiar with HIP practices this is the set to have. The Susuki complete set played on authenic instruments on BIS, is a second alternative but would cost more than 3 times the price of this one, and the performances there are uneven, and also sometimes sterile and cold and too intellectual and analytical. Better to select the best performances from Susuki to complement this set with them. All the Herreweghe recordings on Harmonia Mundi are reference standard recordings on original instruments, and are, I think therefore, also necessary to supplement this set. In this set the quality of soloists, choir and orchestra is even throughout all the performances, at a very high level. All texts and discussion of each cantata is provided on a separate CD which you can read along on the computer. Includes 2 booklets with track listings, one indexed by CD volume the other by the order of performance in Bach's time, each Sunday and feast day, day by day. Highly recommended.
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on 4 November 2013
This set dates from the 1970's- 80's and was completed for the Bach tercentenary in 1985. It has received criticism from some purists who nowadays favour period instruments , young male voices as opposed to women's choruses etc but for me this set is a revelation and a real bargain. I was prepared for a bit of muddy and dated recorded sound but these performances are very clear with a host of excellent soloists , fine instrumental textures and good pacing from Rilling et al. The booklet and cd rom is excellent and the whole set is tremendous value.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 September 2013
Rilling was not the first to record all the cantatas; Leonhardt and Harnoncourt were, and their set is available relatively cheaply these days, but it features all male singers, meaning that the arias for soprano, sung by boys, vary in quality.

Rilling's set is the antithesis of the HIP approach that L&H took. His is a lush orchestral sound, with a very strong choir. His soloists are often excellent, but two things make this one of the last sets I turn to. (I have 6 complete Cantata sets.) First, Rilling's tempi can be a bit turgid at times; there's is often too much solemnity and not enough joy. Second, the recording process is weird; there is often a soloist on one channel, an obligato instrument (such as a violin or oboe) on the other channel, and the main orchestra in the center. This is especially annoying on headphones.

Gardiner's "Bach cantata pilgrimage" set is far superior in so many ways: more energy, more subtlety, better soloists. Suzuki's soon-to-be-finished-in-a-few-years set on Bis is excellent as well, but sometimes too clean. But I'd take either of them over Rilling any day. At this price, if you're a fan of the cantatas, it's a must-have set, but I wouldn't want this to be the only set one has; Rilling's approach is too limited for such astounding music.
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on 17 September 2014
If you are in any doubt about this budget priced collection be reassured. Rilling's complete cantata collection are much more about Mr Bach and much less about the conductor (no names - no pack drill). This glorious music from beginning to end.
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on 29 December 2014
This set is extraordinary value for the price: recorded before the full 'enlightenment' of early performance practice, the performances are nonetheless a fully authentic Bach experience, sincere, joyful and shaped by superb musicianship. The solo singing is of the highest quality as is the instrumental playing. The orchestral textures are sometimes a bit rich for modern tastes and there are probably too many voices in the chorus, but what comes across in cantata after glorious cantata is the performers' commitment to the music and the spiritual insights it contains, often deeply emotional ones. The lack of text and commentary in the box set can be remedied by using Alfred Durr's authoritative 'The Cantatas of JS Bach' (OUP 2006) which follows the liturgical year so you can listen to the cantatas, and engage with Bach's word setting and spiritual reflections, at the appropriate times.
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on 21 February 2015
The very occasional lapse in sound quality apart (a somewhat flattened acoustic in a couple of the earlier recordings, if that makes sense), this is a marvellous bargain - less than a quid a disc! One can nit-pick about tempos, soloists and interpretations until the choristers come home; personally, I don't find these versions in any way inferior to those of the Bach Collegium Japan or Monteverdi Choir. Great, warm music, beautifully presented, a real labour of love.
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