Philippe Herreweghe is widely considered to be one of the foremost Bach interpreters of our time. This four deluxe CD-Book collection is part of the Philippe herreweghe Bach Edition, and features key works from the Bach canon. Each set in the series is available at a very special low price and features packaging and liner-notes on a par with the best that harmonia mundi offers. These sets are a rare bargain and a must-have for collectors…
There is no doubt that the forces Herrweghe has employed here are some of the best in the 'Passion' business. Aside from this, however, one cannot eliminate the fact that there are several other notable recordings of this work that stand on their own merit, which for the most part are as 'good' or as 'bad' as this one. The three that I own which includes this one(all reviewed by me on Customer reviews) are: Gardiner's 1988 recording with the outstanding Monteverdi Choir that sparkles and shines as only they can; the 1994 Cleobury King's College Choir recording, whose soloists are superb etc. etc. etc. So it all really amounts to what YOU hear and what turns YOU on!
In the early 1730s Bach revised his E flat major Magnificat of 1723, transposing it to D major and omitting the interpolations peculiar to Christmas performances in Leipzig. (Recent research suggests such richly scored Latin Magnificats could be performed in Lutheran churches at some 15 annual festivals, not just the three – Xmas, Easter, Ascension – previously supposed.)
Rameau had the somewhat dubious fortune (in his own time, at least) to be such a powerful creative personality in the field of orchestral music that the quality of his dances sometimes overwhelms the operatic context in which he places them. From our point of view today, this hardly seems a liability, especially when it permits the performance of marvelous orchestral suites such as this from his various theatrical productions. Les Indes galantes (1735) contains some wonderful dance music, scored with the composer's usual imaginative flair.
Philippe Herreweghe directs these Schumann concertos with severity and urgency, with an impact that’s particularly strong in the opening movement of the A minor piano concerto. The soloist is Andreas Staier, who plays a mid-19th century J.B. Streicher instrument. But it’s not just the use of period instruments (this is certainly the kind of piano Schumann would have known) that proves so fascinating here; rather, it’s the minutely detailed way in which soloist and conductor interact during this performance. Note, for instance, how astutely Herreweghe’s wind players articulate the sorrowful first subject group after the soloist’s opening salvo, a passage that sets the tone for all that follows.
Over the past 40 years Philippe Herreweghe has been working with some extraordinary soloists with whom he has had very fertile and stimulating dialogues, both musically and personally. Philippe Herreweghe: "It seems important to give these musicians the opportunity to express themselves on the label PHI in works they are particularly fond of." This is the case of the present recording. Christine Busch, leader of the orchestra of Collegium Vocale Gent, recorded the Sonatas & Partitas for solo violin by J. S. Bach - a work she admires, and she has been playing since her childhood. Philippe Herreweghe: "Christine Busch inspires by her technical perfection, her strength, her humility, her sense for poetry, as well as by her qualities needed to serve the greatest of all composer".
…And Herreweghe himself is actually an apt interpreter of the work. Not only does he have a knack for bringing out better than the best in his performers, but he actually seems to believe in the spiritual and sublime essence of the work, a very, very rare quality in any conductor these days…