12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Good set, some caveats,
This review is from: The Complete Cantatas (Special Edition) (Audio CD)
Rilling was not the first to record all the cantatas; Leonhardt and Harnoncourt were, and their set is available relatively cheaply these days, but it features all male singers, meaning that the arias for soprano, sung by boys, vary in quality.
Rilling's set is the antithesis of the HIP approach that L&H took. His is a lush orchestral sound, with a very strong choir. His soloists are often excellent, but two things make this one of the last sets I turn to. (I have 6 complete Cantata sets.) First, Rilling's tempi can be a bit turgid at times; there's is often too much solemnity and not enough joy. Second, the recording process is weird; there is often a soloist on one channel, an obligato instrument (such as a violin or oboe) on the other channel, and the main orchestra in the center. This is especially annoying on headphones.
Gardiner's "Bach cantata pilgrimage" set is far superior in so many ways: more energy, more subtlety, better soloists. Suzuki's soon-to-be-finished-in-a-few-years set on Bis is excellent as well, but sometimes too clean. But I'd take either of them over Rilling any day. At this price, if you're a fan of the cantatas, it's a must-have set, but I wouldn't want this to be the only set one has; Rilling's approach is too limited for such astounding music.