The B Minor Mass is a fine performance by The Sixteen and Harry Christophers, which is subtle and well-sung. The choir, which is fairly large at 26 singers (whereas some recordings in recent years have used much smaller groups) is nevertheless of a size that allows the individual voices to stand out in the choral melange. The instrumentalists also play in perfect balance with the choir - the obbligato instruments fit perfectly with the vocal texture, and the overall sound of the orchestra is excellent.
Once in while a recording comes along in which the performers, producers, and recording team get everything right. This is one of them. First issued in 1995, this production of Bach's Easter "oratorium" easily can claim supremacy among several very good alternatives. Largely cobbled from an earlier secular cantata for a duke's birthday, the music is some of Bach's most poignant while being alternately festive and meditative. There are no "roles" as we find in the Passions, no Evangelist-type recitatives, no chorales, and there's no real dramatic story line. Instead, we visit a particular scene–Peter, John, and the two Marys discover the empty tomb and contemplate its meaning.David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
Bach’s Goldberg Variations have played a central role in harpsichordist Pierre Hantai’s musical life since his early youth. At 28 he recorded the work for the Opus 111 label (now available on Naïve), a highly acclaimed release that stands among the work’s choice versions. Over the past 11 years Hantai evidently has rethought and refined his interpretation, as revealed in this 2003 remake. There’s greater rhythmic freedom and variety of articulation, plus a more subjective approach to ornaments and agogics, especially in the repeats (he observes all but those in Variation 15, 25, and the Aria Da Capo; the 1992 recording honors all repeats save for Variation 25). Variations previously characterized through Hantai’s seamless legato technique (Nos. 3, 6, 8, 11, 17, and 18, for example) are further enlivened by detaché finger strokes and more inflected phrasings. The latter infuse Variations 7, 10, and 16 with greater resilience and rhythmic verve than their earlier counterparts.
Youngest son of J.S. Bach, Johann Christian Bach rose to prominence in England during the early Classical period much the same as his father dominated the German Baroque. His writing was influenced by his father, of course, but also by the fashions being explored by Haydn. J.C. Bach also served as a bridge to Mozart, whose work and early writings were also influenced by the junior Bach. A total of 15, three-movement symphonies were published under Opp. 6, 9, and 18.
Given the considerable number of recordings that have tried to place Renaissance compositions within the context for which they were written, it is odd that the same has so rarely been done for Bach. After all, most of Bach's output consists of Gebrauchsmusik, music written for daily use. This release by Scotland's historical-instrument Dunedin Consort and its leader John Butt shows the possibilities of this approach.