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Helmuth Rilling
Edition Bachakademie - Vol. 9 (Geistliche Kantaten BWV 27-29)

Rilling Cantatas/Review of Vol. 9

Josiah Armes
wrote (January 8, 2000):
A couple days I got an offer in the mail, which offered me entry into a contest. If my name is drawn, I may win the complete works of Bach on over 170 CD's. The letter mentioned that the Cantatas are performed by Helmuth Rilling. I remember a little while ago on Ms. Hanford's list a very big discussion on this Cantata set, but I deleted the letters at the time. Could you please send me your opinions on this set: good points, bad points, etc. Of course I am going to enter the contest because it is free, but I would like some opinions.

Carl Burmeister wrote (January 8, 2000):
What an odd coincidence. The very same Rilling Cantata set (69 CD's) arrived on my doorstep yesterday (along with the 12 CD Lionel Rogg Organ Works which means no time for reading or writing e-mail, but more on the Organ stuff some other time).

John Hanford's page on this set offers the following comment by Alan M Kriegsman:
"Sometimes one comes across what one feels is truly a "definitive" interpretation; such is the case, for me, with the Arleen Auger performance, under Rilling, of the extraordinary aria "Wie zittern und wanken," No.3 in BWV 105, the cantata "Herr, Gehe nicht ins Gericht"."

My decision to purchase the Rilling Cantatas was based on two immediate causes. The first was the purchase of Cantatas BWV 27, BWV 28 & BWV 29, Vol.9 of one numbering scheme (there are more than one such scheme which means they are probably different performances - Matthew, John, someone from Hänssler?) (That was a rather Biblical aside) last month and second the purchasing source for my inquiry told me the boxed set was going to be no longer available and that they had only a few left (probably just a sales come on). Their price (USD &250.00 inc. shipping) was an offer I couldn't refuse.

Regarding the recording of Cantatas BWV 27 - 29, obviously I enjoyed them very much. I feel the musicianship is quite high. I like the singers, woodwinds and trumpets all very much. If character matters (and everyone on this list knows how I feel about that), then this recording offers a glimpse into the character of just about all the participants. In addition, with the exception of a few vocal high notes, all the playing and singing is effortless and without being effortless, it is hard to let character shine through.

The recordings are Modern Instrument Performances (Another acronym, anyone?). I would compare Rilling with Scherchen in his tender loving approach to the music. That love shines through every recording of his I've heard so far. While I'm trying to get away from subjective notions of how something makes me feel or I like this and I don't like that in my posts, I will acknowledge the above contains a certain element of the subjective. Considering the philosophical basis of music, it's hard to avoid altogether.

I'll offer the following Rilling quotes from the liner insert in the short article entitled "Tradition, Change, Modernity".

"What impressed me most was that from the individual cantatas of the early years through the works composed at four week intervals during the Weimar period and those of his first years in Leipzig, where he produces a new cantata every Sunday, to the late works created after yet a larger interval, no two cantatas are alike."

"Only if you know Bach's cantatas, can you say you really know Bach."

"Bach's church cantatas ... were an integral part of the church service, for which he shared responsibility at the time. What the priest expressed in words, Bach expressed in music, commenting on the issues of each Sunday's text..."

The article goes on to talk about Rilling's attitudes about performance and why he didn't opt for period instruments. If anyone is interested, I'd be happy to send a copy of the article (I'm hoping that would be OK with Hänssler).

Hope that constitutes a strong recommendation for this set.

Rick D. wrote (January 8, 2000):
Yes, I would be interested in hearing why Rilling would use modern instruments.

Philip Peters wrote (January 9, 2000):
And so would I.

Luis Villalba wrote (January 9, 2000):
I have already heard 50+ Cantatas from Rilling's set, and concur with much of what Carl says. I find commitment, enthusiasm and the loving care he mentions.

Sometimes, however, the continuo playing is overdone and obtrusive, and every now and then one of the ladies uses too much vibrato for my taste.

While I clearly prefer the HIP sound, instrumental playing is quite accomplished and some soloists, both instrumental and vocal, are truly first rate.

Josiah Armes wrote (January 10, 2000):
What exactly are period instruments?

Carl Burmeister wrote (January 10, 2000):
Generally I use that to mean instruments which either were made during the historical period that corresponds to the music (unlikely) or reproductions of same. If you check the back of various CD's you will see the designation "on Period Instruments" or with imports "auf Periodische Instrumenten".

A quick note on playing on antiques. Barock instruments don't withstand the ravages of time well and one is much better off playing and listening to reproductions.

Carl Burmeister wrote (January 11, 2000):
Dear Luis, I got caught making a woodwind-centric generalization. My apologies and I'm sure it won't be the last time I make the mistake.

Of course, strings and keyboard instruments fare better and in fact I would rather own one of these original than some modern copy.

Woodwinds especially oboes seem to have short lives. Even the modern ones are frowned on if they are more than 10 or 15 years old. My Loree was made in 1952 so once again, I'm behind the curve.

Thanks for clearing up a misconception that should have not gone unchecked.

My wife nearly killed me last night as I started to practice at 10:00 PM. Oboe students are not popular people.

Luis Villalba wrote (January 12, 2000):
I would take some exception to Carl's statements regarding longevity of Baroque instruments. Restored or not, for example, baroque violins (Stradivarius, Guarnerius, etc) are the most sought after by present day players (regardless of their preferred repertory).

I am sure that Gustav Leonhardt loves old harpsichords with passion.

I will grant, however, that modern copies by top-class makers are wonderful instruments in their own right. Also, I cannot speak about wind instruments, since the last time I tried to blow into one of them (decades ago) the family threatened to expel me from the house.

Helmuth Rilling: Short Biography | Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart | Frankfurter Kantorei | Bach-Collegium Stuttgart
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
Edition Bachakademie - Vols. 1-20 | Edition Bachakademie - Vol. 9 | Edition Bachakademie - Vol. 60 | Arleen Augér sings Bach conducted by Rilling | Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau sings Bach conducted by Rilling
Other Vocal Works:
BWV 232 Rilling | BWV 243 - Rilling | BWV 244 - Rilling | BWV 248 - Rilling | Chorales - Rilling
Cantate Label:
Recordings | General Discussions
Table of recordings by BWV Number

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