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 >>
OregonLive.com
'...a bright British conductor...'
more >>
Fanfare
'Heartily recommended.'
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 >>
American Record Guide
'...a nicely blended and balanced instrumental group'.
more >>
MusicWeb International
"...the Linn recording is a must."
more >>
Gramophone
'The Retrospect Ensemble's orchestral playing and choral singing is of the highest quality...'
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 >>
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 >>
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 - Bach Oratorios - The Sunday Times


28 March 2011
The Sunday Times
Hugh Canning
4 Stars

Bach's so-called oratorios are essentially cantatas, but he put the boat out for all three (the third being the Christmas Oratorio), with soprano, alto, tenor and bass soloists and the grandest possible orchestra, including three trumpets and drums. It is no wonder, then, that Kommt, eilet und laufet (Come, hastening and running - BWV 249) and Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen (Praise God in His Kingdoms - BWV 11) are two of the largest and most popular of his almost 200 liturgical cantatas. Like the Christmas Oratorio, they belong to the St Thomas cantor's "parody" works, recycled, or rather refashioned, from earlier works. (Like Handel, Bach was never one to waste a good tune.) The two works in their final forms make ideal partners on disc, and Halls's Retrospect Ensemble make something special of the pairing.

With a choir of 18 and a period band of 26, this is relatively large-scale Bach, but the liturgical occasions for which both works were rearranged merit such lavishness, and the music-making is sumptuous, Halls and his trumpeters revelling in the celebratory clamour of Bach's writing. If Iestyn Davies's plangent alto stands out among the soloists - the soprano Carolyn Sampson, the tenor James Gilchrist and the bass Peter Harvey - it's because he has this Ascension Oratorio's plum aria, Ach bleibe doch (Ah stay - which Bach refashioned magnificently in the Agnus Dei of the B minor Mass), and sings it quite ravishingly. Top-drawer Bach throughout, beautifully recorded and documented by Linn.


Bookmark and Share


Related Links

Matthew HallsMatthew Halls
Retrospect EnsembleRetrospect Ensemble
J.S. Bach Easter and Ascension OratoriosJ.S. Bach Easter and Ascension Oratorios