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Timothy Roberts & His Majesty’s Sagbutts & Cornets
A Bach Album


A Bach Album


Sinfonia (Mvt. 1) from Cantata BWV 29 [3:36]
Chorale (Mvt. 8) from Cantata BWV 29 [1:43]
Chorale (Mvt. 8) from Cantata BWV 36 [0:36]
Chorus (Mvt. 1) [3:48] & Chorale (Mvt. 6) [1:13] from Cantata BWV 38
Chorale (Mvt. 6) from Cantata BWV 62 [0:35]
O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht, BWV 118 [8:23]
Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein, BWV 432 (verses 1, 2) [1:24]
Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir - chorale melody [1'07]
Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir, after BWV 686 [3'56]
Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir, BWV 687 [4'20]
Allein Gott in der Höh¹ sei Ehr, after BWV 715a [2'10]
14 Canons on the first 8 fundamental notes of the aria from the Goldberg Variations, BWV 1087 [7:03]
Meine Seele erhebet den Herren, after BWV 648 [2'19]
Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein, after BWV 641 [2'02]
Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein, BWV 431 [0'55]
Vor deinen Thron tret ich, after BWV 668 [4'11]
Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (verse 1) [0'32]
Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, after BWV 659 [4'42]
Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, after BWV 660 [2'28]
Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, after BWV661 [2'49]

Timothy Roberts (Director & Organ)

His Majesty’s Consort of Voices / His Majesty's Sagbutts and Cornetts

Soprano: Julia Gooding; Alto: Ashley Stafford; Tenor: Angus Smith; Bass: Robert Macdonald

Hyperion CDA-67247

Nov 29-30, Dec 1, 2000

CD / TT: 61:08

Recorded at Church of St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead, London.
See: A bach Album - Timothy Roberts & HMS&C
Buy this album at:
CD: | |

Review: Bach Album by His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts

Kirk McElhearn wrote (June 17, 2002):
This recording is a curiosity. As the name of the ensemble suggests, this is a group of musicians who play sackbuts and cornets, together with voices and organ, trumpets, timpani, cello and violone. The main music, though, is played by cornets and sackbuts.

It is always difficult for such “non-mainstream” ensembles to find a sufficiently interesting repertoire, and they naturally choose to transcribe music to fit their forces. One need not enter the debate about transcribing Bach - he did so for a great deal of his own music, so the issue seems closed. But here, a group of limited variety has attempted to present a disc of music that corresponds to their instruments.

The have not really succeeded in providing a great deal of music – looking at the track list, you can see that many works are presented in various versions (which are different uses Bach made of the same pieces). There are chorals from the cantatas, or for organ, in some cases sung by solo voice, in others by solo organ, or played by instruments alone, and in others a combination of voice and instruments. While this gives the disc a thematic limit - hearing the same music in different versions and for different forces - it is also the strength of this recording. For Bach’s music exists on a variety of planes, and the same piece played on different instruments gives a radically different result. Listen here to the basic chorale Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir sung by bass Robert MacDonald. Its austerity and simplicity are magnificently interpreted, and the emotion of this sacred song shines. But when it is heard for 2 conetts, 4 sackbuts and organ, the tone changes, providing a new facet of the music. The same goes for the solo organ version - which represents Bach¹s own ³transcription² and the other versions from cantata BWV 38.

Not all of the music works for this ensemble - the opening sinfonia, after BWV 29/1, is unbalanced because of the contrast between the loud brass instruments and the very soft organ. And the performance of Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Her, after BWV 715a, is so wooden it sounds like a student practicing. The sound of the cornet and sackbut, in this piece, are not very attractive. Yet, overall, the music works very well. One of the most interesting pieces is the Fourteen Canons BWV 1087. This is a series of short canons found in Bach’s personal manuscript of the Goldberg Variations, which follow the bass notes of the aria of this work. The arrangement here is quite interesting, and makes one yearn for this group to record Bach’s Art of Fugue.

This disc is a unique journey through some of Bach¹s sacred music, with, as guides, an ensemble which takes an original approach to the music and comes out a winner. While one may be skeptical of such an experiment at first, the results are stunning. This is certainly one of the most interesting ³derivative² Bach albums I have heard in a long time.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 17, 2002):
Kirk McElhearn wrote:
< A Bach Album [61.08] (...) His Majestys Consort of Voices His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts HYPERION CDA 67247 [61.08] (...) This disc is a unique journey through some of Bach¹s sacred music, with, as guides, an ensemble which takes an original approach to the music and comes out a winner. While one may be skeptical of such an experiment at first, the results are stunning. This is certainly one of the most interesting “derivative” Bach albums I have heard in a long time. >
Thanks, Kirk, for mentioning this one. Looks like a delight. I have their terrific disc of Gabrieli canzonas and sonatas (Hyperion 66908), and it's nice to see a group of this caliber essay some Bach. These guys, and anything by La Fenice/Jean Tubéry, or Bruce Dickey...I could listen to good cornetto (Zink) performances all day....

It's also nice to see people approaching Bach like a late, late, late 17th century composer (which he was), taking that distinctive sound world forward, rather than from later times looking backward. They're starting on a good foot here.


HMS&C "A Bach Album" Hyperion CDA 67247

Steven Guy wrote (August 9, 2002):
I recently bought the His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts recording of Bach on the HYPERION label. It is quite nice and it is worth having for the Sinfonia to Cantata BWV 29 and the motet O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht BWV 118 (rarely recorded) alone.

There are a number of chorales - both sung and played, strangely not together - cornetts and trombones in unison with voices was surely one of the most beguiling sounds of the Baroque and Renaissance? This recording seems to avoid letting us hear that sound! I know, this is a minor quibble.

Overall, it is an enjoyable recording but I would like to have heard maybe a couple more movements from cantatas - say, BWV 4, for instance? The opening chorus and soprano/alto duet would have been good to include on this disc. It would also have been nice to have another recording of Bach's arrangement of the da Palestrina Missa sine nomine (2 cornetts, 4 trombones & continuo used with the voices).

The sinfonia to BWV 29 is played with great gusto and it does come off sounding a lot closer to the kinds of sonatas and sinfonias heard at the opening of cantatas and masses by Biber, Rosenmüller, Schmelzer, Krieger, Kerll, Schelle, Knüpfer and Kuhnau from the previous century. Was Bach so really far from this guys?

The pitch of this recording is a' = 440 Hz - so if you have the music for some of these works (I have) you can play along with HMS&C! I managed to play both the cornett and trumpet parts of the sinfonia on my modern pitched treble cornett. I think I managed to entertain my cat.


Tim Roberts: A Bach Album (was Rilling's BWV 118)

Continue of discussion from: Cantata BWV 118 - Discussions

Dale Gedcke wrote (October 9, 2004):
John Pike wrote:
< I have been listening to the recording by Timothy Roberts/His Majesty's Sagbutts and Cornetts of the original version of BWV 118 (1736) with no strings/oboes, possibly originally performed on a funeral procession. It is very moving. It comes on an album called "A Bach album", together with arrangements for brass and soloists of some other Bach pieces. >
Per John Pike's recommendation, I ordered a copy of the CD that contains BWV 118. I received it today. It is a great performance of a variety of Bach's compositions (21 selections)! What is interesting is that the players use historical sackbutts (the original trombone) and cornetts (a.k.a., cornetti, zinks).

Trumpets, cello, violone, timpani, organ, and 1 to 4 voices are also included in various cantatas. The rendition of BWV 118 is good, and the 14 intricate canons are intriguing. But you will likely be most impressed with the surprising sound and dynamics of the last cantata on the CD, BWV 29/7!

I bought this CD so that I could sample the sound of cornetti and sackbuts. The sound is excellent. The cornetti (basically a woodwind with a trumpet mouthpiece) sound close to the tone of a modern brass Bb cornet, and possibly closer to the tone of an Eb cornet. The sackbuts sound pretty close to a modern trombone. Of course connoisseurs of trumpets, cornets, zinks, sackbutts and trombones will, no doubt, detect a tonal distinction.

The full designation of this CD is:

A Bach Album; His Majesty's Consort of Voices, His Majesty's Sagbutts and Cornetts; Timothy Roberts, director; HYPERION CDA67247, published in 2002.

I highly recommend this CD! John provides the link to this CD on below:

Neil Halliday wrote (October 10, 2004):
[To Dale Gedcke] Dale mentioned buying this album in order to "sample the sound of cornetti and sackbuts."

I have ordered it on the strength of the sample of the BWV 29 Sinfonia:

None of the recordings I have - Herreweghe, Rilling, Rotzsch, Woeldike and Parrott - generate the kind of excitement I think this music is capable of.

They all feature a piccolo-like chamber organ sound that emphasises lightness; and the same applies for the Roberts recording, but this latter definitely has trumpets and drums that "kick ass" (to borrow Dr. Lehman's descriptive phrase), and the oboes have a forward presence that helps to compensate for the (IMO) underpowered organ.

In addition to the less than powerful organ sound, the orchestras of all the other recordings mentioned above suffer from varying degrees of anaemia; Roberts shows that it's very important to punctuate the busy organ line with double forte trumpets and drums, in this (what should be) gloriously festive music.

Herreweghe gives a good impression of a whirring sowing machine; Rilling's trumpets and especially timpani are far too discreet; Rotzsch (unusual to hear Biggsy at the console of such a small instrument) and Wöldike are too leisurely; and Parrott's forces, though starting-out well, seem to gradually fall asleep as the movement progresses. (I hope Roberts doesn't do the same).

For another version that really "kicks ass", try this one from Richter and the Ansbach Festival Choir and Orchestra (1950's).

If Herreweghe's organ is like a sewing machine, this one's like a Saturn rocket!. I would definitely get this if it were available, even if it sounds more like Widor than Bach.


A Bach Album: the engineering

Neil Halliday wrote (October 25, 2004):
This collection of Bach pieces performed by His Majesty's Sagbutts and Cornetts and His Majesty's Consort of Voices, directed by Timothy Roberts, is in the main a very appealing production.

Most successful are the movements from the cantatas, arranged for the above forces, including BWV 118, which is of course performed in its original setting.

(The arrangements of various organ works for the instrumental ensemble, while interesting, are not necessarily as satisfying as the originals for organ).

Regarding the engineering: mostly fine, except for track no. 5, namely BWV 687, which is the only (original) organ solo on the CD; the volume at which this has been recorded is *extremely* low, so I have to turn the amplifier up to *full* volume, to get anything like a realistic sound level, at which the various lines are intelligible (the chamber organ itself sounds fine, if the volume level is adjusted).

Therefore I have no qualms about tossing a 'brickbat' to the recording engineer, listed as Julian Millard, since this is an insuffiency of which he should be aware, and which ought not occur on modern CD's.

And yes, the organ is woefully under-powered, in the Sinfonia to BWV 29 (track 1).

However, this is still probably the best version that I have, largely due to the efforts of the timpanist, who single-handedly (almost) manages to maintain the excitement level throughout.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 26, 2004):
[To Neil Halliday] More details are at Hyperion's advert
including a sample of the Sinfonia, and then the programme notes:

Perhaps they intended that the organ solos be mastered at the SAME (i.e. natural) volume level as the rest of the programme, such that the whole disc flows with the same volume levels a concert would have? I applaud such an approach. Why should the volume of the recorded space go swinging up and down artificially between pieces (at the hands of the engineers)? This isn't the 1960s, when dynamic compression and expansion was necessary to make LP pressings sound good. The publication and playback technology is now good enough to reproduce accurate volume levels, clearly. The volume can sound as it does in real life!

As for the organ being "woefully under-powered" in BWV 29, isn't that only an opinion from an expectation that it should be louder than such instruments really are? (I've played that sinfonia, live, with all the stops drawn on a similar trunk organ, with a medium-sized string band and trumpets and timps; the organ didn't dominate, but supplied the sparkle and spice to the proceedings--same balance as heard in that web sample.) Organ music does not have to be loud to be good. An intimate sound from an organ is just as musically valid as a more aggressive sound is.


Timothy Roberts: Short Biography | His Majesty's Sagbutts and Cornetts | Recordings of Vocal Works | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Individual Recordings:
A bach Album - Timothy Roberts & HMS&C

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