economical package of some of the greatest vocal works written. lovingly produced, directed and performed. new insights with every listening
Gardiner's recordings of Bach's "sacred masterworks" were considered near-definitive when they were initially released during the 1980's. Since then numerous other "period performance practice" versions of these works have appeared, yet despite competition from such early-music luminaries as Suzuki and Herreweghe (to name only two), Gardiner's have retained their benchmark status.
The earliest performance in this compilation is the *Mass in b Minor* (dating from 1982). This remains an extraordinary account of a much-recorded piece. Gardiner manages to integrate drama, exultation and contemplation in just proportion (something surprisingly few conductors achieve in this work). His tempi are often brisk, but never breathless, and his choir sings with admirably clear diction and astonishing agility. The only qualification concerns the soloists who, though good, are surpassed by those on many rival recordings; the problem is that their rather wan timbres don't fit well...
Below are the Amazon.com asin numbers for all four of the works in this box:
St. Mathew Passion - B0000057DG (1989)
St. John Passion - B0000057CW (1990)
Christmas Oratorio - B0000057D5 (1990)
Mass in b minor - B0000057CN (1990)
The numerous reviews already posted for each work say it all.
Many period instrument productions lack the interpretive element more commonly found in traditional performances. Not so with Mr. Gardiner. You don't just hear authentic music, you feel the passion and the poetry in it like never before.
I find no weaknesses to speak of in any of these recordings. The soloists are top notch, the choirs are well balanced, the orchestral playing is brilliant, the music breathes with spiritual and poetic inspiration, and the recorded sound is both detailed and atmospheric.
And you get it all in one convenient box at a price that is unbelievable.
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