Bach: Weihnachts-Oratorium, BWV 248 (Christmas Oratorio)

Reviewed on Fri 23 Dec, 2016

Woodwinds sound perfectly poised, strings alive and alert, refulgent brass beautifully burnished. The Berlin-based Windsbacher Knabenchor sound no less attuned to stylistic considerations, offering one gloriously lithe chorus after another together with superbly attenuated support for the quartet of soloists.

Hot on the heels of John Butt’s pleasingly pared-back (two voices per part) period-instrument offering of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the Dunedin Consort on Linn Records, comes this glowing modern-instrument account with directing credits shared by Karl Friedrich Beringer (Cantatas 1-3) and Martin Lehmann (Cantatas 4-6). Although recorded three years apart (in 2012 and 2015) the join is seamless, the clearly nimble Deutsche Kammer-Virtuosen Berlin playing with crisp, precise feeling for period idioms and a nuanced feel for narrative emotion and drama. Woodwinds sound perfectly poised, strings alive and alert, refulgent brass beautifully burnished. The Berlin-based Windsbacher Knabenchor sound no less attuned to stylistic considerations, offering one gloriously lithe chorus after another together with superbly attenuated support for the quartet of soloists. All of whom acquit themselves with characterful aplomb, Marcus Schäfer’s strongly-sung Evangelist deftly negotiating the role’s many functions. A Christmas delight to stand comfortably alongside Helmut Rilling’s modern-instrument account on Hänssler Classic.
–Michael Quinn