15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
One of the best cantatas,
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This review is from: The Complete Cantatas (Special Edition) (Audio CD)
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!