on 2 January 2016
My rating of this product, like all of the others raters in this page, is personal and subjective. So, if you just like the modern versions of Baroque music that happened to be named “authentic”, this comment is unuseful for you; it is OK; it is your personal taste and your free choice. But if you sincerely want to look for the very spirit of Bach, you need to know that Harnoncourt was the antagonist of the unfortunately early gone Karl Richter 'and Helmuth Rilling, Wolfgang Gönnenwein, and the earlier Karl Münchinger', the very pioneers of the renovation of the Bach’s studies and interpretations. Harnoncourt arose after all of them and against them, claiming to be the real interpreter of Bach and all the Baroque music. Unluckily he was followed by Gardiner, Hogwood, Parrott, King, and most of the modern interpreters, frequently compelled by their producers (sometimes they dare to set aside the pattern, and they are immediately reproached, as anyone can check in these pages just looking for), and all the beneficiaries of the modern interpretations, whom you rarely see in other genres of music. They no longer care about the authentic Baroque music, but about its MODERN “authentic” interpretation, whatever it is.
So, Harnoncourt made many years ago a version of the Matthaus-Passion without female voices (misogynist?), and then continued recording the cantatas (I had all of them in vinyl) and several Handel oratorios in that way, adding other inventions like the so-called “period instruments” (note that the arch he uses for this instruments is not the one used by the baroque musicians; and note also that the best string performers, even today, use the instruments made for the ancient luthiers: Stradivarius, Guarnieri and Amati). Then he and his followers named the result of those arbitrary elections as “authentic”, disqualifying all what did not adjust to them.
I will not explain why all this modern invention is not genuine, because I did it some times before and, above all, because it is too easy to search for, if you are really concerned about the real history and not in the interested revisionism. And I repeat: if you LIKE the modern versions, it is perfect, it is neither any sin nor any musician fault, it is only a matter of taste. Just do not call them ancient or true, or even authentic with that meaning, because THIS is really false.
Then, regarding the Cantatas, I will propose only a fact and my honest advice. The fact is that all four named pioneers were not only extremely prepared musicians, but also choirmasters and organists, Kirchenmusikdirektoren, professors of sacred music or even theologian scholars in the protestant church (Richter was organist at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig exactly two centuries after Johann Sebastian Bach). So no one can even pretend to dispute that THEY are the true interpreters of the “authentic” spirit of the great german masters of sacred music. My honest advise is, of course: buy theirs versions (Richter has 75 cantatas in 26 CDs, divided in five volumes according to the liturgical times; Rilling have all of them, following the BWV numbers).