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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Bach, Christmas Oratorio, Thomanerchor Leipzig, Gewandhausorchester, Gotthold Schwarz

A new DVD set of Bach's Christmas Oratorio recorded live at the iconic St. Thomas Church in Leipzig? A promising possibility I could not resist. With Thomaskantor Gotthold Schwarz heading up the combined group of soloists, the youthful Tomanerchor and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig (Accentus Music ACC20479 2-DVDs) it is all I had hoped for, one of the very best I have heard in fact.

Why? First off the soloists are excellent in Dorothee Mields, soprano, Elvira Bill, alto, Patrick Grahl as Evangelist tenor, Markus Schafer as tenor in the arias and bassist Klaus Hager. I was especially taken by Ms. Bill and her lyrical grace. They all excel in their parts though.

Second, the boy's Thomanerchor Leipzig is an outstanding group of its kind and rise to the occasion here. Third the Gewanshausorchester Leipzig is in top form and the soloists shine especially brightly throughout.

Thomaskantor Gotthold Schwarz carries the mantel of tradition without the slightest fatigue, taking on the six successive cantatas with a joy, a floating legato-slight rubato in the more tender moments and great heroic grandeur at other times as appropriate. The phrasing is impeccable.

With camera work and sound quality near perfect the whole gives a perspective on the work we would not get on a sound-only CD. It puts us always in mind of how Bach varied the combinations of soloists and massed forces, and paced the proceedings for aural beauty and drama.

Tempos can bubble along snappily or take on a reflective mode to provide an underpinning of excitement that Schwarz and performers mold into something formidably and heartfully alive..

For the festivity and meaningful continuity of a performance in St. Thomas Church, for the brilliance of the reading, this is something a Bach fan will happily experience, I have no doubt. Highly recommended! Bravissimo!

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