Dunedin Consort - J.S. Bach: Christmas Oratorio - BBC Radio 3 'Record Review'
AM: How has this most thoughtful and engaging of Bach scholars set about the Christmas Oratorio?
SH: Well he's exploring some interesting performance options. He has two different sized choirs...the brassy Cantatas have a different set of four principle singers, plus a team of apprentices who join them when things get a bit noisy...We've got an awful lot of vocal variety built into this performance...They balance beautifully on the recording with the strings, oboes and horns. And ooh, ooh, those horns are outrageously good here!
... plays Cantata No. 4 ...
AM: You can tell from the clarity and quality of the singing there. I thought it was fascinating how the way in which the horns are so much to the front of the recording...
SH: Absolutely. It's foreground sonority. It's so disappointing when you hear them put at the back of the orchestra, but here we can hear the spittle rattling and it's exciting in the "are they on the note? Yes, yes they're there!" It's exciting. It's a real authentic sound.
SH: Joanne Lunn is a standout soprano. She's precise and she's warm and she makes the Echo Aria in the Fourth Cantata work...she's wonderful...Her colleague Matthew Brook (bass), has exactly the weight and graininess for the rollicking trumpet aria in the First Cantata.
... plays Cantata No. 1 ...
AM: Matthew Brook; he's got weight and heft and loads of colour and there's a little bit of a reminder that Bach is very demanding of the bass soloist - you need a big range.
SH: You need a very big range and actually you need to swing; and he does; they do! It's a terrific swing here. As a whole, I think this is a really dance-inflected performance.
AM: Beautiful trumpet playing as well; it just sounds effortless.
SH: Paul Sharp is very, very sweet, very, very precise.
AM: And it brings up the instrumental playing of course. We must talk about that a little. Where you impressed?
SH: Hugely. It's dovetailing with the vocal writing in the choruses particularly, so carefully. It's as if the voices are instruments and the instruments are voices. They are so close...You have a sense of a very warm and positive atmosphere coming across.
AM: It's been well and intelligently recorded. Simon Heighes was obviously impressed. I think that's going home with him for Christmas I suspect.