Karl Ristenpart: JS Bach Christmas Oratorio

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COMPOSERS: JS Bach
LABELS: Audite
ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach: Christmas Oratorio
WORKS: Christmas Oratorio
PERFORMER: Agnes Giebel, Charlotte Wolf-Matthäus, Helmut Krebs, Walter Hauck; RIAS Kammerchoir/ Karl Ristenpart
CATALOGUE NO: 21.421 (1950)

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This recording of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio was made in Berlin in 1950. It forms part of an ambitious but sadly never completed project by Karl Ristenpart to record all of Bach’s Cantatas for the Berlin Radio (RIAS) in the American sector. The dimensions of the RIAS Chamber Choir and RIAS Boys’ Choir are modest for their time but, while they are responsive to text and music, greater pleasure derives from the solo contributions of Charlotte Wolf-Matthäus and Helmut Krebs. The most admired Evangelist of his generation, Krebs’s singing is clearly articulated, lyrical and authoritative. Agnès Giebel, at the outset of a distinguished career sounds less favoured by the microphone balance while Walter Hauck inclines towards an over demonstrative declamation.

Ristenpart favoured brisker tempos than his contemporaries.
The Part II Sinfonia is faster than any I can recall while the baritone aria ‘Grosser Herr’ is slower than usual. The soprano/alto aria ‘Flösst, mein Heiland’ is a shade too brisk, yet the tempo of the alto aria ‘Schlafe, mein Liebster’ seems ideal. Sound quality, though thin and edgy, is otherwise remarkably clear.

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Nicholas Anderson