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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very worthwhile
It's great that we now have so many versions of this wonderful music, where previously there was very little. We tend to forget how forgotten this music was - virtually nobody knew BWV147's "Jesus bleibet meine Freude" (Jesu, joy of man's desiring) until Dame Myra Hess started using it as an encore in her concerts in the 1930s. Now we have Harnoncourt/Leonhardt, Rilling,...
Published 10 months ago by Teemacs

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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Music
Beautifully packaged - but let down because the cardboard sleeves more or less disintegrate as one opens each - and plenty of them.JE Gardiner as always excels.
Published 8 months ago by Mike Brooks


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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very worthwhile, 6 Nov 2013
By 
Teemacs (Switzerland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Bach: Cantatas | Complete Box Set (Audio CD)
It's great that we now have so many versions of this wonderful music, where previously there was very little. We tend to forget how forgotten this music was - virtually nobody knew BWV147's "Jesus bleibet meine Freude" (Jesu, joy of man's desiring) until Dame Myra Hess started using it as an encore in her concerts in the 1930s. Now we have Harnoncourt/Leonhardt, Rilling, Koopman, Leusink, Gardiner and most recently Suzuki. Something for every taste and pocket, traditional, HIP, modern instruments, "old" instruments, contraltos, counter-tenors, boy sopranos, the works.

I collected this entire set as individual sets as they were released by SDG. SDG meant "Soli Deo Gloria" (to the glory of God alone), which was how Bach signed off his cantata scores, but it was also apparently "sod Deutsche Grammophon", after the famous falling out with Gardiner over its refusal to issue the set, which led to Gardiner doing it himself. I'm pleased to see that there seems to have been an element of kissing and making up, because this set includes four non-SDG pilgrimage releases, which DG Archiv issued. So, everything that was recorded on the pilgrimage (plus Vol.28, the Ascension Day cantatas, which were recorded later) is available.

So, what commends Gardiner over the competition? Nothing really - this will always be a matter of individual taste, and the dedication of the others to this wonderful body of music is no less than Gardiner's, and their approaches no less valid. And of course there will always be individual cantatas where one will prefer someone else's version over Gardiner's. Bach is said to have liked brisk tempi; Gardiner, with a choir that appears to be able to perform miracles on command, seems sometimes to take it to extremes and not allow the music to breathe properly - one example is the wonderful opening chorale of BWV137 (the hymn still sung in churches as "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation"), which is, to my ears, taken far too fast. However, these instances are overshadowed by all the times that Gardiner (to my ears) gets it dead right - the marvellous BWV140 ("Sleepers, awake") is done to perfection. Overall, the standards of performance and recording are extremely high, and Gardiner's thoughtful analytical essays on the music are a pleasure to read. Bach's deeply-felt Lutheranism was at the core of his very being, and therefore of this music; Gardiner understands this completely and seeks to bring this out in performance, and in general succeeds admirably.

In short, this is an outstanding set available at an outstanding price, and it belongs on the shelves of every Bach lover.

P.S. Here's a sample - Gardiner and his merry (wo)men doing BWV11 "Lobet Gott in seinem Reichen" (the Ascension oratorio) at the 2013 Proms:

[...] [Sorry miserable Amazon gits won't allow the link, but you can find it on YouTube]
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67 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Complete Cantatas, 27 Oct 2013
By 
Dizwell "HJR" (Sydney, Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bach: Cantatas | Complete Box Set (Audio CD)
The Gardiner cantatas come in an attractive cardboard box. Each CD is enclosed within that box in its own cardboard slipcase, with very attractive photographic portraits by Steve McMurray on the covers (a different portrait for each CD). The overall effect is of thoughtful beauty, but it's marred a little by the ease with which the cardboard is damaged. Mine came with a 'roller mark' along the entire set, in the middle of the top border, which disappointed a little. In short, nice 'set aesthetics', marred a little by the choice of materials and the packing implementation.

But we're here for the music not the packaging, so what to say about that? First, let's get factual. There are 187 different BWV numbers included: obviously, you get most of the BWV 1 to 227 series (the cantatas proper), but you also get 668, 1044 and 1048. You also get two recordings of BWV 150 (on CDs 15 and 21).

What's "missing"?

BWV 15 - not by Bach at all
BWV 29 - By Bach
BWV 41 - By Bach
BWV 53 - Probably not by Bach anyway
BWV 106 - By Bach
BWV 118 - Not a cantata as such, really
BWV 119 - By Bach
BWV 120 - By Bach
BWV 142 - Not by Bach
BWV 157 - By Bach
BWV 160 - Not by Bach
BWV 189 - Probably not by Bach
BWV 193 - By Bach, but incomplete
BWV 201 - 224 - Secular Cantatas

So there are about six genuine omissions, and other apparent 'missings' are down to the fact that the cantatas concerned are not by Bach, not wholly by Bach or by Bach but not intended for church performance. The omissions are, it seems to me, relatively trivial. I certainly wouldn't mark the set down a whole star in consequence!

Each of the cantatas that are present were recorded live, with recorded dress rehearsals being used to cover up any disasters or audience coughing fits. I think you would be hard-pressed to tell that audiences were present: I've yet to hear an intrusive cough, shuffle of feet or other intrusion. However, the performances definitely have that 'live' quality -a heightened intensity, a vibrancy that speaks of adrenaline!

I have the Leusink and Suzuki cantata cycles to compare with, and Gardiner knocks the spots of Leusink, whose choir frequently sounds awful, with a tendency for the Sopranos to 'hoot' or 'bloom' excessively. Leusink's soloists are also often sub-par. Suzuki and Gardiner are a more interesting comparison: I sometimes find Gardiner a bit plodding where Suzuki is exciting, but I often find Gardiner's performances more consistent than Suzuki's. In BWV 130, for example, Gardiner doesn't sound much like he's attending the war in heaven between Michael and Satan. A tea-dance might be more his thing. Suzuki, by comparison, is much punchier, zestier, faster... and much more satisfying as a result. That said, Suzuki's tenors and basses in that particular performance are less prominent than the Gardiner equivalents, so the double fugue is much harder to hear properly. Overall, it's difficult to choose between them!

Another favourite of mine is BWV 127. Gardiner's sound is much richer than Suzuki's, partly because he has the choir sing the chorale tune in the first movement which everyone else just has played by the violins. It's unorthodox, and I can't decide if it's the right thing to do or not... but the effect is undeniably lovely.

Gardiner's soloists sound very good: I've yet to hear a dud performance. Leusink's bass, in particular, not infrequently sounds not up to the technical task, but none of Gardiner's sound out of their depth.

Suzuki's and Gardiner's orchestras sound about equally as good, in my view. I wouldn't like to have to choose between them, anyway!

The price of this set might seem a little on the high side, but that's probably because we're spoiled these days with dirt-cheap boxed sets everywhere you look. You'd have to be a real curmudgeon to begrudge paying about £3 per disk. Additionally, a lot of those 'everything composer X wrote' boxed sets tend to include performances from different performers at different times and of highly variable musical quality. This set, on the other hand, presents a coherent, cohesive and consistently-excellent vision of Bach's cantatas.

So, I'd unhesitatingly recommend it. Niggles about packaging aside, any reservations I may have about it are simply those you'd be bound to have when comparing 180+ performances of one impressive conductor with another. If you have the Suzuki, I'd still say get the Gardiner anyway: the differences in interpretation are interesting and enthralling, and will provide hours (weeks/months!) of interest. Meanwhile, Suzuki isn't available (as far as I know) as an all-in-one boxed set, so you're looking at spending up big to get his equivalent.

Here, then, you get excellent performances, thoughtful and intelligent interpretation, fine musicianship... and all boxed up in one relatively cheap and highly convenient package. You can't really go wrong here, I feel.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life-enhancing, 22 Dec 2013
By 
P. Duffy (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Bach: Cantatas | Complete Box Set (Audio CD)
I could just add my words of praise to those of most of the other reviewers here, but if you are a prospective purchaser it might be more useful to explain how I have tackled the set from a practical standpoint. The effort I have put into getting the most out of these recording is, in itself, an indicator of the high esteem in which I hold them.
If you're a dedicated audiophile you will play your CDs again and again on your components. If on the other hand you prefer the convenience of a portable player, where you can easily reference individual cantatas and with the minimum downgrade of audio quality, here's one way to get the most out of your investment (Warning: some further investment may be necessary):
First rip the entire set to a new library in iTunes, preferably using Apple Lossless format. Then create a playlist for each individual cantata, titling each playlist BWV 001 CD12, and so on. This keeps the cantatas in correct numerical order and helps with matching the sleeve notes and so forth. If, like me, you are OCD-inclined when it comes to organising your music collection, you will also want to scan - or download if available by the time you read this - the artwork from each slipcase so you can immerse yourself in the complete product. It took me 3 or 4 evenings to accomplish all of this; time thoroughly well spent in my view (sorry, my artwork scans are too large to upload for sharing). Finally sync the whole lot to an iPod Classic, since it's unlikely they will all fit onto an any other kind of portable player, even in the leanest of file formats.
If you want to follow the scores, you can download them in PDF format (to read on your tablet or whatever) using a link from SDG's Cantata Finder website at [...] an excellent companion resource to the recordings, or from the Bach Cantata Website. The only other thing you may need is a decent set of over-the-ear headphones, such as Bose QC15 noise-cancelling model. No in-ear buds will do justice to the recordings. It's hard to imagine what the great Cantor of Leipzig would think if he knew that future generations would be able to turn on his vast output like a tap to bring them closer to Heaven.
This is a very special item for a music lover to own, a musical treasure trove to last a lifetime. Grab it while you can; being a limited edition, it may not always be easily affordable. I took useful advice from Amazon Customer's review. He (or she) helpfully lists the few works that are omitted from the set, but I must correct him/her on one point: BWV 41, for New Year's Day, is not missing. It's on CD2, and very fine it is too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How these cantatas are ordered:, 28 April 2014
By 
This review is from: Bach: Cantatas | Complete Box Set (Audio CD)
I have some of the original double-cd releases and they are wonderful.

Re the full boxed set: Are the cantatas ordered according to the Lutheran Church Calendar (as in the original double-CD releases) or according to BWV number ?
I prefer Bach cantatas to be grouped according to the relevant days in the Church Calendar. It is then much easier to listen to them week by week in the correct order.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Bach Cantata Cycle, 2 May 2014
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This review is from: Bach: Cantatas | Complete Box Set (Audio CD)
Well worth waiting for, and excellent value at the price. Good to have a cycle recorded in the modern digital era alongside the earlier cycles such as Teldec's cycle originally recorded 40 years or so ago (which I would still listen to).
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24 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars NOT complete cantatas, 24 Oct 2013
By 
D Horne (Herefordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bach: Cantatas | Complete Box Set (Audio CD)
Please be aware that this is NOT a complete set of Bach's sacred cantatas. It is the complete recordings from the Gardiner Bach Cantata pilgrimage.

There is no doubt about the quality of the performances and recordings. Pick any CD at random from the set, pop it into your stereo and you'll be delighted. However, the card sleeves in which the discs are housed are rather thin and I wonder how well they will stand up to repeated handling.

Don't hesitate to buy if you want all of Gardiner's Bach and you can put up with the flimsy CD sleeves, but if you are looking for the COMPLETE cantatas you will need to look elsewhere.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb and Enlightening, 10 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Bach: Cantatas | Complete Box Set (Audio CD)
My local church started a summer vespers series featuring Bach's cantatas. The box set by Gardiner and the Montiverdi choir are a great help to me in appreciating this music. Until recently, I was very familiar with only one of the cantatas. Now I can experience them all in great detail. The performances are superb! This is a magnificent collection.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Earthly pleasure for an unearthly reasonable cost !, 3 Feb 2014
By 
Kimball Chen (New York, New York United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bach: Cantatas | Complete Box Set (Audio CD)
Gigantic in ambition, ambition worthily achieved. Does a complete video edition lurk somewhere - the one extant DVD makes one long for more.
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5.0 out of 5 stars 绝对的经典, 31 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Bach: Cantatas | Complete Box Set (Audio CD)
从演奏水平到灌制水准都是当代最好的,无法超越!
加德纳的所有cd都值得拥有和收藏。
这套包子里面每张cd都是用彩印硬质封套,包含一张cdr,内容是每一张cd录制时,乐队成员或者加德纳本人的一篇类似随笔的文章,当时文字是跟cd内容关联的,以及英文版的唱词。
This is the best Bach Cantata I have ever heard and see! From the orchestra, choir , and the singer, to the package of the cd set itself, everything is telling one truth that this is the best cantata recording ever!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Complete Bach Sacred Cantata collection. J E Gardiner., 29 Jan 2014
By 
Mr. D. K. Martin (Ashford, Kent, UK.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bach: Cantatas | Complete Box Set (Audio CD)
This boxed set incl. several rcds originally published on the DG label. Card sleeves with the art work. Excellent value for money even if you already possess some of the originals.
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