Nikolaus Harnoncourt / Arnold Schoenberg Choir / Concentus Musicus Wien

Bach: Weihnachtsoratorium, BWV 248

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If this 2007 recording of Bach's Christmas Oratorio was the only one you were to hear, you would likely be well satisfied. Nikolaus Harnoncourt knows the work from long experience, his first recording dates from 1973, and he knows not only how to balance the soloists, chorus, and orchestra but how to balance the festive, the reflective, and the demonstrative, as well. The soloists here are generally quite fine -- clarion soprano Christine Schäfer and stentorian bass Christian Gerhaher are especially effective -- the Arnold Schoenberg Choir is, as always, deep and sonorous, and Harnoncourt's hand-picked Concentus Musicus Wien performs with its standard gusto and enthusiasm. These factors in addition to the overwhelming magnificence of the work itself are more than enough to make for an enjoyable recording. But, of course, there have been many, many recordings of the Christmas Oratorio before this one, and many of them are far better than this one of Harnoncourt's. One could point to the lift and drive of John Eliot Gardiner's recording, or to the joy and devotion of Karl Richter's, or the soul and spirit of Kurt Thomas', or lightness and grace of Ton Koopman's, or the sheer vocal beauty of Peter Schreier's, and still barely have touched on all the performances that go further into the work than Harnoncourt's. Deutsche Harmonia Mundi's super audio sound has tremendous impact in the loud passages but still contrives to sound flat and two-dimensional the rest of the time.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Title/Composer Performer Time
Weihnachtsoratorium (Christmas Oratorio), in six parts, BWV 248 (BC D7)
1
7:58
2
1:20
3
0:47
4
5:39
5
1:10
6
0:26
7
3:00
8
5:07
9
1:07
10
5:17
11
0:36
12
1:14
13
0:44
14
0:42
15
3:40
16
0:19
17
0:38
18
0:55
19
9:02
20
0:13
21
2:59
22
0:20
23
1:23
24
1:58
25
0:08
26
0:49
27
0:42
28
0:45
29
7:03
30
1:10
31
4:55
32
0:25
33
0:55
34
0:20
35
0:54
36
2:11

Track Listing - Disc 2

Title/Composer Performer Time
Weihnachtsoratorium (Christmas Oratorio), in six parts, BWV 248 (BC D7)
1
6:07
2
0:25
3
2:29
4
6:00
5
1:28
6
4:52
7
2:03
8
7:29
9
0:22
10
1:43
11
0:56
12
4:23
13
0:11
14
0:32
15
1:14
16
5:26
17
0:25
18
1:07
19
5:23
20
0:40
21
0:52
22
4:31
23
1:09
24
1:10
25
0:20
26
1:52
27
4:41
28
0:34
29
3:23
blue highlight denotes track pick