The sound world of Bach’s last great Mass has changed radically in recent decades; one-to-a-part performance practice is, as conductor Lars Ulrik Mortensen puts it, “changing our entire notion of Bach’s acoustic universe”. This bold claim is amply proven in an account of dazzling transparency, dance-like rhythms and utter clarity. Sometimes the balance seems not quite right, for example when organ continuo dominates, but some superb ensemble numbers pit voices against virtuosic instruments so each seems to outdo the other in joyous exuberance. The five soloists complement each other well, and the addition of just five extra singers is all that is needed to explode Bach’s universal vision into life.
Little by little, L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato (1740) is gaining recognition as one of Handel's masterpieces. The idea of interleaving passages from John Milton's twinned poems delineating two extremes of human temperament clearly inspired the composer; the actual literary work was done initially by James Harris and amended by Charles Jennens. The composer also had Jennens pen a final section praising the integration of "Mirth" and "Melancholy" into "Moderation."
The Ricercar Consort was founded in 1980 by harpsichordist and now director Philippe Pierlot. On this seasonal new release we are presented with three festive works by J S Bach (1650-1715), where an exuberant ensemble, with flutes, oboes, trumpets, timpani and voices, express the comfort and joy inspired by the Nativity. The cantatas in question are "Unser Mund Sei Voll Lachens" (BWV110), "Süsser Trost Mein Jesu Kommt"( BWV151) and "Christen, Atzet Diesen Tag" (BWV63). There are many different recordings of the Christmas Cantatas available and while I enjoyed this new one from France I am not convinced it is the definitive version although it is certainly most listenable. Bach's innate joie de vivre is never more clear than in his celebration of the Nativity. The melodies keep pouring from him and the instrumental accompaniment dances around the vocal lines like peasants dancing around a Christmas tree: joyfully unrestrained and unselfconscious. . (Steven Whitehead)