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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Herreweghe always comes up trumps., 4 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Bach: Christmas Oratorio [Dorothee Mields, Damien Guillon, Thomas Hobbs] [Euroarts: 2059504] [Blu-ray] [2013] (Blu-ray)
This was the 3rd (& most recent) performance of Bach's Christmas Oratorio that I purchased. I donated the other two to charity after I'd watched this one. Herreweghe is totally reliable. He always picks excellent soloists, his tempos are never silly or extreme, he always uses period instruments, and his choral forces are always decently smallish. No other conductor can touch him when it comes to interpreting JS Bach. And I must say that he brought this (to me) hugely familiar work back to new life for me. Excellent sound, excellent picture. The Blu Ray version is worth the bit of extra money.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Chamber" Christmas Oratorio, 18 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Bach: Christmas Oratorio [Dorothee Mields, Damien Guillon, Thomas Hobbs] [Euroarts: 2059504] [Blu-ray] [2013] (Blu-ray)
This is a very nice recording of these 6 cantatas. Very few performers (the choir is only 4 sopranos, 1 alto + 3 countertenors, 4 tenors and 4 basses, and I think there are less than 20 instrumentists). But they are all great. The vocal soloists sing with the chorus in the choral parts.

I think this is a very historically informed performance, first (obviusly) because the instruments are "historical", and second because Bach probably had no more than 40 musicians at his disposal when these cantatas where first performed.

The only "unhistorical thing" is probably that the choir is not a boys choir, but this is not a problem for me: I've enjoyed this recording a lot.

Please excuse my English, English is not my mother tongue.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Herreweghe's Christmas present, 19 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Bach: Christmas Oratorio [Dorothee Mields, Damien Guillon, Thomas Hobbs] [Euroarts: 2059504] [Blu-ray] [2013] (Blu-ray)
Yes, Herreweghe is a sure bet for Christmas! This blu-ray wasn't really a surprise; if one has listened to Herreweghe's Bach before one enters here into a familiar terrain: warm sound, mid-tempo ('jazzy') playing and first-class singing (Mields, Guillon, Hobbs, Kooij and the magnificent Collegium Vocale Chorus). There is no Jacobs's dramaturgy nor spirit-raising of the old times. Familiar is also the way of the production: the cameras are with the drama of the performance but there's no 'drama' in the shooting itself. So, in this sense this is a typical Euroarts production. The sound (DTS & PCM) is almost a first-rate (noting that it is a live take from the Palais des Beaux-Arts) but sadly there is bit too strong echo in the hall (and possibly some side-noise related to the recording itself in some parts). One also has to note that all six cantatas are performed. Easily recommended to everybody's Christmas (and to the time before the next year's Christmas).
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent 'period' performance and recording of these six cantatas, 30 Dec 2013
By 
I. Giles (Argyll, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bach: Christmas Oratorio [Dorothee Mields, Damien Guillon, Thomas Hobbs] [Euroarts: 2059504] [Blu-ray] [2013] (Blu-ray)
This disc was recorded during one performance in December 20 2012. This is worth noting because, unlike many 'live' performances, it has not been stitched together from several 'live' performances and is a genuine one-off performance. Bearing that in mind, the recording is remarkably successful by avoiding distractions such as any hint of audience noise or restlessness. Bach intended it to be a continuous work but performed over a period of six days, one for each cantata over the Christmas period. That replay option may suit many viewers, but the audience on this occasion clearly found the complete six cantatas performed as one continuous work to be a very satisfying experience and listen with rapt attention throughout.

The accuracy of the playing over such an extended time is also a tribute to the skills of the orchestral players and the singers. The trumpets are worth a special mention as the high lying, and often solo writing, of the lead trumpet is especially demanding and Alain De Rudder plays with apparent and consummate ease. Other orchestral soloists worth a special mention are Christine Busch as lead violin, Marcel Ponseele on oboe and Benoit Laurent on the oboe Da Caccia. All of these play with total surety and with first class tonal control, as indeed, do their colleagues as a group.

The small mixed choir also deliver an excellent performance with well modulated tonal control and well balanced part singing. The four soloists, Dorothee Mields (soprano), Damien Guillon (alto), Thomas Hobbs (tenor) and Peter Kooij (bass) make an excellently balanced group on the rare instances when they sing in partnership with each other, but more particularly as soloists. Thomas Hobbs, as the Evangelist, has the key vocal role, and it would be hard to imagine it being better sung and with more conviction. He enhances his impact by singing directly to the audience without one glance at the printed copy held in his hands.

That sort of close familiarity is apparent with all the performers who must have played and sung this work countless times. They are led by Philippe Herreweghe, who as conductor, is completely undemonstrative but clearly intent and absorbed in his role as director. He has a considerable reputation as a renowned conductor of such period works in particular and both the choir and orchestra were founded by him a very long time ago. This underpins the strong feeling of unity of purpose communicated by this performance.

The camera work is detailed and fully involving without being in any way invasive. The imaging itself is totally crisp with excellent colour rendition. The sound is presented in excellently natural DTS 5.1 and stereo. Subtitles are provided in English, German, French and Japanese. The subtitles, if chosen, only leave the screen during repeated passages. The performance is naturally given in German so subtitles are a tremendous help to viewers unfamiliar with German. The booklet gives the text openings to the 66 separate tracks for easy identification.

This is a distinguished production and I would suggest that it makes a most attractive purchase option for anyone interested in this work.

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Some dialogue from the comments section that may offer further help:

I entirely agree with you. This is a wonderful performance rendered all the more impressive by the fact that the four soloists also make up the sixteen-strong choir: a phenomenal achievement in terms of sheer vocal stamina. If I were to venture a tiny criticism, it would be that in a work as joyous as this, the dour and unsmiling expressions on the faces of all the participants are in unsettling conflict with the music. Of course, I don't want to see everyone grinning inanely, but some visible sign of the performers' delight in this piece would have made the whole experience a little less like a grimly devotional ritual. (U.K. review)

I thought that you might like to know that before I buy a recording I now look through all the reviews to see if you have posted one. Your assessments and opinions are invaluable. Thank you. (US review)

I particularly like your format of review. They give the prospective purchaser an idea of the style of the playing and relevant comparisons. They are succinct. Keep up the good work! (UK review)

I'm sure there are many other serious collectors, besides myself, who wait for your synopsis and opinion before spending their hard-earned money on new releases...
Keep up the good work!
Thank you (UK review)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 26 Jan 2014
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According to my opinion this is the best version of Bach's Weinachtsoratorium on the market.
I first found it at YouTube, wondered if it was available on DVD and was happy to find it at amazon.co.uk.
A treasure for every lover of Bach's cantatas.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic performance, 25 Oct 2013
By 
Francisco Bandeira (Portugal) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bach: Christmas Oratorio [Dorothee Mields, Damien Guillon, Thomas Hobbs] [Euroarts: 2059504] [Blu-ray] [2013] (Blu-ray)
This is a great interpretation of the Christmas Oratorio. Great sound and image. And this is a All Regions format (not Region A, as told in the product description)
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2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No subtitles, 28 Dec 2011
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Excelent concert and very good audio and video edition but...there isn't any subtitles !!! Of course it's sung and spoken in German but in my opinion at least English, French, Spanish and Chinese should be provided. German it is not a world wide language and it is not easy at all to understand it when sung by a chorus and classical singers.
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