Dunedin Consort - J.S. Bach: Christmas Oratorio - The Arts Desk

This set makes a brilliant counterpoint to last week's modern instrument Sony recording, an earthier, differently flavoured set from one of the UK's best period ensembles. John Butt uses just two singers for each vocal part, each pair swapping solo duties for the different cantatas which make up the oratorio. The Dunedin Consort's playing is full of character: horns and trumpets are stretched to the limit but acquit themselves handsomely, and there's some nifty bassoon work from the superb Peter Whelan. And who needs modern oboes when you've a quartet of players like those heard in the little Sinfonia which opens Cantata No. 2? What Butt excels at is presenting the story behind the work; we get a sustained narrative, not a sequence of highlights. Basses Matthew Brook and Konstantin Wolff are magnificent in the later cantatas. No. 6's trumpet-heavy last movement delivers the requisite spiritual uplift. Exceptionally good, and beautifully presented in book form, with full texts and translations. 

The Arts Desk
17 December 2016