Top positive review
70 people found this helpful
Christmas Oratorio at its very best.
on 23 December 2004
This might very well be the ultimate recording of the Christmas Oratorio. Orchestra, choir, soloists and conductor are all fabolous. Precise, inspired and vibrant. There really aren't any flaws with this one- it goes straight to the heart.
My largest compliment to Bonney, von Otter, Rolfe-Johnson, Crook and Bär, The Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists and not least Sir John.
I will compare this to two other recordings:
If you like your baroque music with a little more meat than in period performances, you should go for Richter's recording and enjoy Fritz Wunderlich as the evangelist. Richter has a more powerful, but also a little more cumbersome sound than Gardiner, but if you can't live without a large choir and traditional instruments, Richter is the one to go for.
Secondly, I will mention the obvious period performance competitor, namely the one from Harmonia Mundi with Rene Jacobs conducting. While that is also a notable account, it is more "puritan" in the presentation and the artistic impression is more dry and academic than with Gardiner. And Jacobs uses the default Harmonia Mundi alto, counter tenor Andreas Scholl, to sing the part of the Virgin Mary. Although he sounds more like a woman than most counter tenors, there is just something wrong with a man singing "Schlafe, mein Liebste". There is nothing to suggest, that Bach didn't use a female contralto for the Christmas Oratorio, so please stop thinking that it is historically correct to have this part sung by a man... it's just plain "Life of Brian" to have the Holy Mother played by a man in falsetto. Take Anne-Sofie von Otter in this recording to hear what a baroque mezzo should sound like in period performance.
Or do like me and get both Richter and Gardiner.