Bach: Easter Oratorio, Ascension Oratorio - Halls

Bach: Easter Oratorio, Ascension Oratorio - Halls

Linn Records  CKD 373

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Vocal

Bach: Easter Oratorio BWV 249, Ascension Oratorio BWV 11

Carolyn Sampson (soprano)
Iestyn Davies (countertenor)
James Gilchrist (tenor)
Peter Harvey (bass)
Retrospect Ensemble
Matthew Halls (conductor)

This, the second release of the highly anticipated Retrospect Ensemble series, features the Easter Oratorio, one of Bach's best-known oratorios and a monumental work, as well as the Ascension Oratorio. Retrospect Ensemble employs large-scale forces for this recording including four-part choir and orchestra (including timpani). This dynamic recording highlights the skill and brilliance of Bach's writing through the inspired story telling of its star soloists and the passion of the Ensemble.

The Oratorio is a unique genre which is known for its enormous structure and epic tales, often including biblical references. The Easter Oratorio and the Ascension Oratorio featured here, tell stories through four characters: Mary Mother of James, Mary Magdalene, Peter and John, which celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus at Easter.

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Reviews (1)

Review by John Broggio - August 5, 2011

The full debut for the Retrospect Ensemble and Matthew Halls is thrilling.

This disc is in direct competition with Bach: Easter & Ascension Oratorios - Suzuki but at no time are they anything other than differing perspectives on two masterpieces - indeed most of the tempo and instrumentation choices are very similar. The essential difference is that Suzuki's Easter Oratorio is celebratory in a regal way - lots of pomp in the character of the music making. By contrast, Halls here offers a more unbuttoned approach to the music making that - for those who respond to this approach in Bach - will be quite winning.

Just as Yukari Nonoshita before, Carolyn Sampson sings with a dazzling purity in the great aria "Seele, deine Spezereien" (not forgetting the beautiful contribution of Rebecca Miles' recorder playing - Suzuki opts instead for a flute) - 11 minutes that one wished never ended. Similar feelings apply to James Gilchrist's rendition of the beautiful aria "Sanfte soll mein Todeskummer"; here the accompaniment demanded by Halls is more volatile than usual and hints at the suffering to come more directly than others. The last of the big solos in this oratorio "Saget, saget mir geschwinde" falls to the countertenor Iestyn Davies (Suzuki employs an alto here, which presents an interesting choice of timbre for listeners) with the Retrospect oboist every bit the equal of his BIS counterpart. Sadly, the bass of Peter Harvey is largely confined to recitatives (good though they are). The chorus is very good, with admirable diction and clarity - like the strings, they are slightly more "top heavy" than Suzuki's ensemble - but with their slightly inflated numbers (compared to Suzuki), some facets ever-so-slightly elude the microphones. The same remarks can be made about the Ascension Oratorio, so no need for repetition!

The sound is wonderful, present yet generous (without overly resonant) to singers and instrumentalists alike.

[Small declaration of interest: I was at school & played in orchestras with the bassoonist, Zoe Shevlin.]

Highly recommended alongside Suzuki's wonderful accounts.

Copyright © 2011 John Broggio and


Sonics (Multichannel):

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