single album

Motets – J.S. Bach

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Union Jack Gramophone april 2013

Swedish choir hot on the heels of Eliot Gardiner’s Bach Motets

Fresh from the high-wire and high jinks of John Eliot Gardiner’s riveting and penetrating account of the Motets comes a calmer and more contained view. The St Jacobs Chamber Choir of Stockholm and REbaroque make for easy collaborators, the latter as rich colla parte instrumental accompanists to these unique Bachian choral essays in rhetorical intimacy and contrapuntal declamation. Gary Graden directs an almost identical programme to the Monteverdi Choir, although he includes the highly wrought funeral motet O Jesu Christ, mein’s Lebens Licht as well as the standard six and Ich lasse dich nicht – a recent addition to the oeuvre on account of its authorship shifting from an elderly cousin (Johann Christoph) to Johann Sebastian. As it happens, neither performance represents the best of Graden’s Bachian credentials: timid violin-playing in the former and perfunctoriness in the latter mask the deeper reflective content.

Quite a different landscape emerges in the other performances, where Graden’s forces deliver a consistently well-inflected understanding of the music. The concerted double-choir movements are presented within a warm and spacious acoustic while the chorale movements – both hymns and paraphrases – each inhabit a kind of corporate homecoming. If there is a temptation to generic jauntiness (the first section of Fürchte dich nicht is just too powdery), Graden communicates the essence of the text without fuss and this reaps rewards in a wonderfully smooth-grained and sensitive Jesu meine Freude. Logic and balance prevail over surprise and passion in most of these readings.

If the singing here isn’t quite in the Monteverdi league and the performances are occasionally undercooked rhetorically, this is still an excellent version for those who seek in the Motets a clear, well-lit and equable path to the heart of Bach’s personal and transcendental visions of devotion, death and salvation.

Jonathan Freeman-Attwood

Svenska flaggan Dagens Nyheter. 

Betyg: 5

En kyrkomusik som hämtade all sin rytmiska vitalitetfrån dansen och som utvecklade den i sin egen sfär. I S:t Jacobs kammarkörs och Rebaroques inspelning av J S Bachs motetter, under ledning av Gary Graden, slås man först av den närmast euforiskt lätta svikten. Detta i en musik som handlar om döden, om att stå helt utan fruktan och bara överlämna sig. Men även fraseringen, det utsökta samspelet mellan kören och orkestern, är av det slaget att man liksom träffas rätt i hjärtat. Blir kallad, även om man kanske inte hör till de kallade: ”Skaka värld och darra; Jag står här fullkomligt lugn. Och sjunger.” Helt underbart!

Bästa spår: ”Jesu, meine Freude”

Svenska flaggan Kyrkomusikernas tidning nr 12 2012

Detta handlar om en fullträff i världsklass –  och detta i en branch där det fanns anledning att tro att allt borde vara gjort när japaner och engelsmän gjort sitt! Först ut var Bach Collegium Japan. 2009 gjorde man sin SACD i sin vanliga ”studio” i ett universitetskapell i Kobe med sedvanlig hög kvalitet beträffande alla tänkbara kriterier som vokalt och instrumentellt, interpretation innefattande dynamik och tempi, inspelningsteknik etc. Dock går perfektionen till laservass överdrift i sopranstämman särskilt i den inledande motetten Singet dem Herren. Produkten är mer tekniskt än emotionellt laddad. John Eliot Gardiner kom i våras – inte bara i turordning – in på andra plats. Förvånande med tanke på hela den eminenta kantatserie som under ett års kringflackande i Europa och New York live-inspelades varje vecka år 2000. I motsats till Suzuki och Graden valde Gardiner sparsamt utnyttjande av contiuno och Monteverdikören hade inte sin bästa form tre dagar i Londons konsertkyrka St. John’s, Smith Square i oktober 2011. Det är svårt att förstå vilka höjdassociationer man velat nå med en egendomlig svartvit omslagsbild på en lindansare mot mulen himmel, men inspelningen är i alla fall ingen topp-prestation –  även om den givetvis har välklingande partier. Fullträffen kom med ”hemmalagets” i alla avseenden enastående inspelning. Det är en fröjd att höra denna utomordentligt homogent välklingande ensemble med strålande röster och instrumentalister. En orsak kan finnas i att man i jämförelse med ovannämnda ensembler tar sig mer tid inte minst i ljuvliga frasslut och en perfekt stundtals lätt dansant lekfull interpretation där varje sextondel ges väl profilerat utrymme. Alldeles uppenbart vinner framförandet på den instrumentella beledsagningen i S:t Jacobs kyrkas efterklangssköna akustik som ger lyssnaren en behaglig närvarokänsla. En julklapp till hela körsverige!

Jerker Nyström

Svenska flaggan Helsingborgs Dagblad 121024

Betyg: 4

Det har sagts att när Johann Sebastian Bach är som mest andlig dansar hans musik. När det gäller motetten ”Singet dem Herren ein neues Lied” stämmer det, i synnerhet på denna nya skiva med åtta motetter från S:t Jacobs kammarkör och REBaroque.

Det var länge sedan jag hörde den framförd med en sådan svikt i steget. När de två körhalvorna kastar stavelserna mellan sig är det som en pardans där än den ena, än den andra för och släpper iväg sin partner för att snabbt fånga in den igen.

Dirigenten Gary Graden har en lika säker hand med de lugnare partierna. Jag sjunker in i koralavsnitten med nästan samma njutning.

 

Henrik Halvarsson

Union Jack Classics Today

Glorious Bach From Graden and Proprius

Review by: John Greene

BachMotets

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 10

If you prefer your Bach choral works performed on a grand scale as opposed to a more intimate (not necessarily more “authentic”) one with typically one or few voices to a part, you’d do well to consider this recent recording of Bach’s magnificent motets by the Stockholm-based St. Jacobs Chamber Choir, accompanied by the instrumental ensemble REbaroque and directed by Gary Graden. A comparison of this with my similarly grand, longstanding reference recording by René Jacobs with members of the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin and the RIAS Chamber Choir (Harmonia Mundi), shows similarities in size–each choir numbers nearly 40 members–and approach–both instrumental ensembles use period instruments; but that’s about it.

Jacobs’ tempos are often noticeably slower (for example, his performance of the opening BWV 225 clocks in at 17:38 to Graden’s 12:38), though more importantly, Proprius’ superior sound engineering gives Graden’s choir and instrumental ensemble a considerable advantage. It’s an interesting perspective. Not only is each instrument clearly defined, but the way they’re integrated with the choir allows listeners to hear both balance and detail better than they would in most live performances.

Included here are performances of the rediscovered/reattributed motets BWV 118b and Anh. 159. As good as Graden and his forces are, Georg Biller’s 1997 renditions with the boys and young men of the Thomanerchor Leipzig (Philips) remain the ones to beat. There’s an incomparable alacrity, an uncanny sense of committed urgency that supercedes the effort by the otherwise gorgeous St. Jacobs Choir. The Thomanerchor was Bach’s choir after all, and I can’t recall any of its recorded performances of Bach or his contemporaries where the Cantors or pupils ever allow you to forget it.

It’s unlikely that Bach ever heard his motets performed on such a massive scale (especially the designated funeral ones–which according to the Leipzig school regulations at the time were to be performed in front of the house of the deceased precisely 15 minutes before the commencement of the memorial service); but given how interpretively versatile, polyphonically rich, and profoundly inspired they are, it’s hard to imagine that he wouldn’t have approved. As full, mixed-choral versions go, this is one of the best. Recommended.

– See more at: http://www.classicstoday.com/review/glorious-bach-from-graden-and-proprius/#sthash.CQ1PTWRH.dpuf

Union Jack Music Web international

Before you even start listening to this recording, the presentation suggests something rather opulent and special. Tucked into the kind of clamshell box in which you expect to find at least two or possibly three CDs, this release has just the usual single disc for J.S. Bach’s complete Motets in its own card foldout holder. The box also includes a nice glossy booklet with texts in German, Swedish and English, notes on each motet and plenty of photos and background information on the musicians involved.

About as far removed from the a cappella Hilliard Ensemble recording from the ECM label which I looked at a few years ago (see review), these are full-fat performances of the Bach motets, with a choir big enough to deliver spectacular antiphonal effects, and an instrumental accompaniment with plenty of solidity to go along with a transparent period sound and limber lightness of touch which prevents everything sliding into early/mid 20th century heaviness.

Hunting for comparisons, the Monteverdi Choir/Gardiner recording on Soli Deo Gloria (see review) has a similarly lively vibe but is a drier recording and rather choir-heavy, with enough sibilance to sail a smallship. The fuller instrumental sound with this Proprius recording means you hear more texture in the accompaniment, where with Gardiner you get the bass line but not a huge amount of anything else. Masaaki Suzuki and his Bach Collegium Japan on BIS (see review) is always an enticing prospect, and in sonority comes closer than Gardiner to the fullness of Gary Graden’s team, though on returning to this recording you do wonder if the buzz-saw lead violin might perhaps have been a little lower in the balance. My feeling with Suzuki is that the motets are treated as jewels which are perhaps just a littletoo precious, and my liking for the Graden recording comes in large part from the energy and spacious generosity which leaps palpably from your speakers.

I’ll go for one more comparison, which is the Collegium Vocale Gent led by Philippe Herreweghe (seereview). This is very much the tidied-up single voice to a part kind of interpretation to which many will have become accustomed in recent years, a single organ sometimes providing all of the harmonic support required, the contrast between this and the motets which include winds and strings making for an attractive sequence. There is much to be said for the clean sound of such versions, and a little more variation in instrumental forces in the Proprius version might not have come amiss, though the strings are silenced in Ich lasse Dich nicht, du segnest mich den, pungent bassoons doing the honours amongst some sublime choral polyphony.

All things considered this Swedish recording of Bach’s Motets is a resounding success. Concertmaster Maria Lindal has her own little section in the booklet, and it sounds as if she was given a microphone all to herself for the recording. This adds upper register sheen and isn’t much of a problem through speakers but can wear thin through headphones, which also show up little blemishes such as what sounds like an extra little note at 7:02 into Jesu, meine Freude. The acoustic setting for the recording is big and fully in scale for these powerful performances, though gentle subtlety is also very much a part of the musicianship here. The magnificent divided choirs of something like Komm, Jesu, komm are the clincher for me in this recording, turning Bach’s motets into something more like a guilty pleasure than a hair-shirt religious duty. If you give this box as a present make sure you double wrap it with an inner lining of silver foil, such are the deliciously rich and chocolaty rewards inside.

Dominy Clements

Union Jack Choir&Organ May/June 2013

All six Motets BWV 225 to 230 are arranged in order by Frieder Bernius in his recording, which also incorporates the short Ich lasse dich nicht (159 from the appendix), now less believably the work of Bach’s maternal uncle. The Swedish choir under Graden’s direction also includes BWV 118 in a graceful, pulsating performance using the second version Bach made for strings and the two oboes with which Graden replaces the ancient litui. This shows off the REbaroque ensemble at its best, though in the altogether more restrained performances by the Stuttgart Chamber Choir (27 voices, as against graden’s 40) a more discreet instrumental accompaniment supporting and shadowing the voices in the two most substantial motets may seem much more preferable. Graden has a greater interest in strong dynamic contrasts, and in Jesu, meine Freude his more relaxed tempi also add greater comfort and clarity to the performances. In the opening double chorus of Singet dem Herrn the monochrome dynamic and lively tempo taken by Bernius sacrifices some of the clarity gained by Graden. BWV 228,Fürchte dich nicht, might have been the kind of dramatic writing that would please Handel, but Bernius’s approach is too lightweight for that text; andLobet den Herrn (BWV 230), which is given a driving vitality by the Swedes, would alert its listeners better than many a sermon. For those who want a completeness that includes O Jesu Christ, the Swedish S:T Jacobs Kammerkör is a clear choice; but differences in choral sound, the weight, strength and shaping of Graden’s voices stand against the lighter and less subtle sensitivity that Bernius commands, and this latter may please purists more. I would choose Graden’s breadth and vigour with the warmth of REbaroque if I wanted a recording to play many times over.

PATRIC STANDFORD

Svenska flaggan Norran 130605

 

Svenska flaggan Pingst 20121229

S:t Jacobs Kammarkör är en av mina favoritkörer. Kören medverkar ibland vid tillställningar som Riksmötets öppnande och andra konserter i huvudstaden. Kören har en bred repertoar och kan också hantverket med att tolka Bach. Bach´s motetter, som tillhör det vackraste av körlitteraturens flerstämmiga musik är som balsam för själen. Här tillsammans med barockorkestern Rebaroque ges Bach´s motetter nytt ljus. Det som slår mig när jag lyssnar på S:t Jacobs Kammarkörs version är att Bach´s musik är väldigt lekfull och dansant och inte stillastående och enkelspårig som somliga menar. Mycket beror givetvis på kören och orkesterns samspel under ledning av domkyrkokantor Gary Graden. Tror inte det tillhör vanligheterna att man anser att det svänger om Bach´s motetter men i detta fall vill jag bestämt hävda att så är fallet. Rebaroque och kammarkören har ett välslipat samspel och Bach har åter hamnat på kartan. Skivan har fått stor uppmärksamhet vilket jag inte är förvånad över.

/Peter Stolpestad

Tracks

  • 1. Singet Dem Herrn Ein Neues Lied, Bw V225 Kompositör: Bach, J S Dirigent: Graden, Gary Orkester: Rebaroque
  • 2. Fürchte Dich Nicht, Ich Bin Bei Dir , Bwv228 Kompositör: Bach, J S Dirigent: Graden, Gary Orkester: Rebaroque
  • 3. Jesu, Meine Freude, Bwv227 Kompositör: Bach, J S Dirigent: Graden, Gary Orkester: Rebaroque
  • 4. Der Geist Hilft Unser Schwachheit A Uf, Bwv226 Kompositör: Bach, J S Dirigent: Graden, Gary Orkester: Rebaroque
  • 5. O Jesu Christ, Mein’s Lebens Licht, Bwv118b Kompositör: Bach, J S Dirigent: Graden, Gary Orkester: Rebaroque
  • 6. Komm, Jesu, Komm, Bwv229 Kompositör: Bach, J S Dirigent: Graden, Gary Orkester: Rebaroque
  • 7. Ich Lasse Dich Nicht, Du Segnest Mich Den, Bwv Anhang 159 Kompositör: Bach, J S Dirigent: Graden, Gary Orkester: Rebaroque
  • 8. Lobet Den Herrn, Alle Heiden, Bwv23 0 Kompositör: Bach, J S Dirigent: Graden, Gary Orkester: Rebaroque