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Bach: Christmas Oratorio [Stephen Layton, James Gilchrist, Katherine Watson] [Hyperion: CDA68031/2] Double CD
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1. Jauchzet, Frohlocket, Auf, Preiset Die Tage
2. Es Begab Sich Aber Zu Der Zeit
3. Nun Wird Mein Liebster Bräutigam
4. Bereite Dich, Zion, Mit Zartlichen Trieben
5. Wie Soll Ich Dich Empfangen
6. Und Sie Gebar Ihren Ersten Sohn
7. Er Ist Auf Erden Kommen Arm/Wer Will Die Liebe Recht Erhöhn
8. Großer Herr, O Starker König
9. Ach Mein Herzliebes Jesulein
11. Und Es Waren Hirten in Derselben Gegend
12. Brich An, O Schönes Morgenlicht
13. Und Der Engel Sprach Zu Ihnen
14. Was Gott Dem Abraham Verheißen
15. Frohe Hirten, Eilt, Ach Eilet
16. Und Das Habt Zum Zeichen
17. Schaut Hin, Dort Liegt Im Finstern Stall
18. So Geht Denn Hin, Ihr Hirten, Geht
19. Schlafe, Mein Liebster, Genieße Der Ruh'
20. Und Alsobald War Da Bei Dem Engel
21. Ehre Sei Gott in Der Höhe
22. So Recht, Ihr Engel, Jauchzt Und Singet
23. Wir Singen Dir in Deinem Heer
24. Herrscher Des Himmels, Erhöre Das Lallen
25. Und Da Die Engel Von Ihnen Gen Himmel Fuhren
26. Lasset Uns Nun Gehen Gen Bethlehem
27. Er Hat Sein Volk Getröst'
28. Dies Hat Er Alles Uns Getan
29. Herr, Dein Mitleid, Dein Erbarmen
30. Und Sie Kamen Eilend
31. Schließe, Mein Herze, Dies Selige Wunder
32. Ja, Ja, Mein Herz Soll Es Bewahren
33. Ich Will Dich Mit Fleiß Bewahren
34. Und Die Hirten Kehrten Wieder Um
35. Seid Froh Dieweil
36. Herrscher Des Himmels, Erhöre Das Lallen
1. Fallt Mit Danken, Fallt Mit Loben
2. Und Da Acht Tage Um Waren
3. Immanuel, O Süßes Wort!/Jesu, Du Mein Liebstes Leben
4. Flößt, Mein Heiland, Flößt Dein Namen
5. Wohlan, Dein Name Soll Allein/Jesu, Meine Freud Und Wonne
6. Ich Will Nur Dir Zu Ehren Leben
7. Jesus Richte Mein Beginnen
8. Ehre Sei Dir, Gott, Gesungen
9. Da Jesus Geboren War Zu Bethlehem
10. Wo Ist Der Neugeborne König Der Jüden?
11. Dein Glanz All Finsternis Verzehrt
12. Erleucht Auch Meine Finstre Sinnen
13. Da Das Der König Herodes Hörte
14. Warum Wollt Ihr Erschrecken?
15. Und Ließ Versammeln Alle Hohepriester
16. Ach, Wenn Wird Die Zeit Erscheinen?
17. Mein Liebster Herrschet Schon
18. Zwar Ist Solche Herzensstube
19. Herr, Wenn Die Stolzen Feinde Schnauben
20. Da Berief Herodes Die Weisen Heimlich
21. Du Falscher, Suche Nur Den Herrn Zu Fällen
22. Nur Ein Wink Von Seinen Händen
23. Als Sie Nun Den König Gehöret Hatten
24. Ich Steh an Deiner Krippen Hier
25. Und Gott Befahl Ihnen Im Traum
26. So Geht! Genug, Mein Schatz Geht Nicht Von Hier
27. Nun Mögt Ihr Stolzen Feinde Schrecken
28. Was Will Der Höllen Schrecken Nun
29. Nun Seid Ihr Wohl Gerochen
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment - Trinity College Choir Cambridge - Stephen Layton, direction
The 38 mixed voices of Trinity College Choir,…very well trained, especially in matters of firm text enunciation --Gramophone, Nov'13
Three weeks from now, on Sunday December 22, Stephen Layton will conduct what has become one of the signal concerts in the seasonal calendar at St John's, Smith Square in London a performance of Bach's Christmas Oratorio. This two-CD set, featuring the same choir, orchestra and (with one exception) soloists, was recorded in the chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge, in January this year, within the season of Epiphany and only weeks after the St John's performance for Christmas 2012. The fact that the music seems to course through the very veins of the singers and players, not to mention Layton himself, is one of the qualities that make this Christmas Oratorio such a telling, affecting and inspiring experience, judiciously balancing jubilation, devotion and contemplation. The six cantatas that constitute the oratorio, while originally intended for performance on different days of the Christmas and Epiphany season, form an organic entity, emphasised by the celebratory nature of the opening chorus, Jauchzet, frohlocket , of the first cantata and the closing chorale, Nun seid ihr wohl gerochen , of the sixth. In between, Layton has supreme command of the contrasts between moments of reflection and the narrative thread, sustained here by the fluency and immediacy of James Gilchrist's delivery as the Evangelist. The Trinity College Choir surmounts the challenges of articulation and expressive variety with finely honed character, rich in consonantal colour. The OAE adds its own warmth and period piquancy to the spectrum, and the first-rate soloists are seamlessly woven in, Iestyn Davies giving a tender account of one of the oratorio s famous numbers, Schlafe mein Liebster , from the second cantata. All in all, this performance blends freshness of interpretation with maturity of insight. ***** --Telegraph, 28/11/13
Crisp Choral singing and exquisite accompaniment, this is decidedly welcome addition to anyone's stocking. Performance **** Recording **** --BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2013
Bach's Christmas Oratorio started life as a set of related cantatas, conceived for performance on the six church feasts between Christmas Day and Epiphany. The composer recycled several earlier works - secular pieces for the Elector of Saxony and his family among them - to create a compelling mix of choral numbers, recitatives and arias which collectively tell the Nativity story and meditate on its profound mystery. Stephen Layton follows the lead set by Bach and his anonymous librettist in shaping a dramatic vision of the complete work, inviting listeners to enter a world of heightened spirituality and compassionate contemplation. If that sounds daunting, like a hard church pew on a frosty winter morning, you ll be gently transported there by this interpretation's tender beauty. Conductor Layton and his excellent colleagues flourish in the lyrical warmth of Bach's music. Listen, for example, to this passage from the echo aria, Flößt mein Heiland, flößt dein Namen , exquisitely delivered by Katherine Watson and Trinity College chorister Rachel Ambrose Evans. This recording suggests that we've reached a new age of Bach performance. Broad tempos and spiritual reflection, once anathema to early music hardliners, make a welcome return. Stephen Layton uses words and their emphasis rather than breakneck speeds to project dramatic points and underline the diverse emotional states of Bach's music. While my mind's ear favours a brassy, breezy conclusion to the work's first part, Layton's persuasive reading of Ach mein herzliebes Jesulein emerges naturally from the text's peaceful prayer to the infant Jesus: Listen also to the orchestral introduction to the chorus Herr, wenn die stolzen Feinde schnauben for the many subtle details revealed by its unhurried delivery. A chorus of more mature voices (Layton's Polyphony leaps to mind) would bring more heft to Bach's contrapuntal writing. But Trinity College Choir plays to its many strengths, vocal agility and deep knowledge of the music vital among them. Sample Layton's young choristers at their considerable best in Ehre sei dir, Gott, gesungen . In many respects, this Christmas Oratorio is Cambridge-made; it's certainly rooted in connections forged there by Stephen Layton over the past quarter century. While German listeners might prefer an authentic cast of native speakers, Bach's mother tongue is served here by admirably clear diction and expressive fervour. James Gilchrist, a sage Evangelist, conveys faith in the Christmas story with equally genuine vocal authority, while Matthew Brook brings almighty dignity to his bass solos. Here's Gilchrist on storming form, pressing shepherds to make haste with joy to Bethlehem. If anything Iestyn Davies trumps his standout contribution to Layton's recent St John Passion recording with singing of the rarest emotional honesty. His warmth of tone is favoured by the acoustics of Trinity Chapel and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment's richness of sound. Davies, partnered by Margaret Faultless' s eloquent violin, strikes a delicate balance between head and heart in 'Schließe, mein Herze', among the Christmas Oratorio s finest numbers. The countertenor touches the divine, meanwhile, in Schlafe, mein Liebster, raising an already exceptional album to Desert Island Disc status. ***** --Sinfini Music, 13/12/13
A flurry of timpani and a pair of trilling flutes kick things off nicely. The OAE's oboes and trumpets are also in fine form, but what really makes this Bach recording a joy is the weight and richness of the choral sound. So many period performances have just one or two voices per part, so hearing close to 40 singers chirping away is an unexpected treat. Choruses and chorales alike proceed with plenty of bounce, and Layton never lets the narrative grind to a halt. On top of which, Stephen Layton's soloists are superb particularly bass Matthew Brook. His Grosser Herr includes a splendid natural trumpet solo from David Blackadder, the final high note beautifully sustained. Countertenor Iestyn Davies is equally good, along with soprano Katherine Watson. Flöst, mein Heiland in the fourth part is wondrous, the tiny echoes sweetly sung by Rachel Ambrose Evans. And tenor James Gilchrist's mellifluous Evangelist is one of the warmest, most direct you'll find on disc. Those in search of an authentically Bachian experience will diligently listen to this set in chunks, each section on the appropriate day. But you'll probably want to consume the whole thing in one sitting, and repeat the experience when you're in need of a spot of uplift. Sample the tiny solo quartet which appears just before the work's end, and marvel at the affirmative final chorale, captured in a resonant Trinity College Chapel acoustic. Most importantly, listening to this is a supremely enjoyable experience, a spiritually potent antidote to all that's schlocky and naff at this time of year. --ArtsDesk, Dec'13
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on 21 December 2013
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
Superlative performance here from conductor, soloists, choir and orchestra alike. Often performances with period instruments are too fast for my taste, but here the pacing leaves room to breathe.
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