COMPOSERS: JS Bach
PERFORMER: Gächinger Cantorei; Bach-Collegium Stuttgart/Helmuth Rilling
CATALOGUE NO: CD 98.551
Before Christmas and much of its music was commercialised, there was Bach – pre-eminently the greatest composer of the season, unfailingly cutting to the emotional and spiritual quick of the texts he set to music. This six-disc box of Advent and Christmas cantatas from Helmuth Rilling’s complete series is a wonderful digest of Bach’s unparallelled achievement in this area.
The intensity of colour and expression in these works is stunning – the surging, brass-capped elation of Unser Mund sei voll Lachens, so full of the simple joy of the Christian message, the searching meditation on temptation in Selig ist der Mann, the seemingly bottomless well of spiritual sustenance plumbed in the chorale conclusions.
The soloists are generally distinguished, and sometimes excellent – tenor Peter Schreier and soprano Arleen Augér both give object lessons in Bach style in their Schwingt freudig euch empor arias, while Helen Donath, Helen Watts and Kurt Equiluz are among other well-known singers making a contribution.
Rilling’s performances (on modern instruments) are neatly tailored and naturally benevolent in nature, buoyant with the wholesomeness and warmth that this great music so frequently emanates. There is simply no better way of celebrating a musical Christmas. Terry Blain