|Comments:||George Murnu said:|
This recording of the Christmas Oratorio was initially released separately as the first three volumes of Rilling's church cantata series. The first disc was separately issued as volume 1 and contains parts I and II of the work, the second disc was issued as volume 2 and contains parts III and IV, and the third disc was issued as volume 3 and contains parts V and VI. In comparison with other modern instruments recordings, notable those of Karl Richter and Karl Muenchinger which best capture the grandeur of the work and which are also reviewed on the J.S. Bach homepage, Rilling presents a more intimate view of the work with faster tempi and more alertness. Certainly the tempi are not as fast as in most period instruments performances and in comparison with such ensembles Rilling's performance is still large scale. But returning to modern instruments recordings, Rilling is certainly one of the more alert ones. His soloists are a mixed team. While Auger is radiant, Schreier is past his prime. He is still an intelligent singer but can be heard to better advantage in the part on the Berlin Classics recording conducted by Martin Flaemig which also features Auger. Even so Schreier is preferable to the overrated Pears in the Muenchinger set although the best Evangelist remains Fritz Wunderlich in the Karl Richter recording. Hamari is also problematic; compare for example "Bereite dich, Zion", so effortlessly sung by Christa Ludwig for Karl Richter with Hamari's fractured intonation. Schoene is always reliable but I prefer both Crass in the Richter set or Krause in the Muenchinger recording for the part. What Rilling has though is the best chorus and possibly orchestra. His conducting brings a certain freshness to the work and as I have said before, successfully captures especially the more intimate aspects of the work, especially in comparison to Richter and Muenchinger. There is no definitive recording of the work but Rilling brings a valid approach to it.