Related Reviews
Opera News
'A new period-instrument ensemble from London brings verve, precision and spontaneity to a recording of J. S. Bach's Easter and Ascension Oratorios.'
more >>
The Consort
'This particular recording, featuring the Retrospect Ensemble, has a lot to recommend it; especially the technically refined and elegant quality of both the orchestra and the soloists. The choruses are refreshingly crisp and bright, sung in a soloistic manner that I find very appealing.'
more >>
musica Dei donum
'... the closing line of the B section is beautifully sung'.
more >>
PS Tracks
'It is simply the most musical realization of these two works I have ever encountered'.
more >>
The Absolute Sound
'The Retrospect Ensemble's Bach performances are pretty much ideal...'
more >>
Fanfare
'Halls' interpretations are above reproach, and his musicians respond at a very high level. What's not to like? Heartily recommended.'
more >>
Fanfare
'Heartily recommended.'
more >>
OregonLive.com
'...a bright British conductor...'
more >>
Classica
4 Stars
'...le duo meditative de la soprano et flute traversière idéalment assure par Carolyn Sampson et Rachel Brown.'
more >>
tommanoff.com
'...the conductor is an exceptional interpreter of [Purcell's] music.'
more >>
Audiophile Audition
5 Stars
Multichannel Disc of the Month: 'The fact is that there is not a weak link anywhere in this cast...'
more >>
MusicWeb International
"...the Linn recording is a must."
more >>
Scotland on Sunday
5 Stars
"There is plenty of action and passion in these two, quite different, works..."
more >>
BBC Music Magazine
4 Stars
'...enjoyably relaxed and unselfconscious performances.'
more >>
Pizzicato
5 Stars
'...superbement interprétées.'
more >>
Audio Video Club of Atlanta
'...the impression is that of heavenly beauty without earthly weight...'
more >>
Gramophone
'The Retrospect Ensemble's orchestral playing and choral singing is of the highest quality...'
more >>
International Records Review
'...highly impressive playing...'
more >>
San Francisco Classical Voice
'The soloists are all excellent.'
more >>
McAlister Matheson Music
'top class'
more >>
The Observer
"Matthew Halls directs sprightly singers and accomplished players."
more >>
The Times
4 Stars
"A disc to make your heart leap."
more >>
ResMusica
Clef de ResMusica Award: 'Un premier disque d'un ensemble prometteur, enregistré qui plus est de fort belle manière par Linn Records.'
more >>
AudioVideoHD
'...dirigiendo esta brillante y fresca interpretación de dos de los tres monumentales oratorios de Bach...'
more >>
Early Music Review
'Fielding an excellent group of singers and players, and with soloists of such calibre, this is a landmark Bach recording.'
more >>
The Sunday Times
4 Stars
Classical Record of the Week: "Top-drawer Bach throughout, beautifully recorded and documented by Linn."
more >>
Le Monde
'...la plus belle musicalité...'
more >>
The Scotsman
5 Stars
"Musical highs don't come much better...Conductor Matthew Halls gleans warmth from this wonderful music."
more >>
SA-CD.net
5 Stars
"Retrospect Ensemble simply sparkles in this repertoire...Johann Sebastian himself would give this one not 5 but 10 stars as well."
more >>
Classics Today
5 Stars
'...can boast renditions of Bach's Easter and Ascension oratorios as fine as--or better than--any in the catalog.'
more >>
Musical Pointers
"The recording at St Jude's Church in Hampstead...makes the most of a perfect acoustic."
more >>

Retrospect Ensemble - J.S. Bach Easter and Ascension Oratorios -American Record Guide


01 July 2011
American Record Guide

 

Johann Sebastian Bach composed in 1734-5 three oratorios for the most important festivals of the church year. The six cantatas forming the Christmas Oratorio (S 248) are the best known and are often recorded. Less known are the two oratorios for Easter (S 249) and the ‘Agnus Dei' for the Mass in B minor. There are subtle differences between these works. Most significant is that, like the Christmas Oratorio, the recitatives in the Ascension Oratorio are all based on biblical texts, while the ones in the Easter Oratorio are newly composed poetry. Both works (like the major choruses at the beginning and end of the Christmas Oratorio) are firmly centered around D major, with prominent parts for trumpets and timpani.

This recording by the Retrospect Ensemble, directed by Matthew Halls, uses a small choir, a strong group of soloists (though I find the countertenor a bit hooty), and a nicely blended and balanced instrumental group. The same two oratorios were also paired on a recording by the Bach Collegium Japan (BIS SACD 1561), using similar forces. I have a slight preference for that earlier recording, which uses a later revision of the Easter Oratorio from 1749, in that Masaaki Suzuki gives the music a stronger dance-like lilt. A very different performance of the 1735 version of the Easter Oratorio was directed by Paul McCreesh, using only one singer per part, though with an orchestra about the same size as both the other recordings. McCreesh lacks the tight orchestral ensemble sound supplied by both Halls and Suzuki.


Bookmark and Share


Related Links

Retrospect EnsembleRetrospect Ensemble
J.S. Bach: Easter and Ascension OratoriosJ.S. Bach: Easter and Ascension Oratorios