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Tenors in Bach’s vocal works

 

 

Tenors in Bach?

Juozas Rimas wrote (September 9, 2002):
Has anyone got any recommendations about tenors in Bach's vocal works? I enjoyed Haefliger and Schreier in SMP as evangelists but what about arias, and not only in SMP but in the abundant cantatas? So far I haven't listened to a single tenor aria in which the voice would strike me as excellent. I haven't listened very much, though...

Which Bach tenor has received most praise so far? Are there definite leaders, at least in certain arias? Thanks!

Robert Sherman wrote (September 9, 2002):
[To Juozas Rimas] I love Haefliger's singing. But listen also to Aldo Baldin, who's terrific in BWV 80.

Philippe Bareille wrote (September 9, 2002):
I think the best is Kurt Equiluz.

Therry van Bastelaer wrote (September 9, 2002):
[To Philippe Bareille] I mentioned a few months ago on this group that I found it hard to find new German tenors in Bach. Somehow a number of them seem to be very tight and slippery in high notes (Knut Shoch, very effectively, ruining Kuijken's recent Bach cantatas release), when they don't have diction problems. Pregardien seemed to provide one of the only reliable combination of vocal technique and musicality. Since then, I got to know and like Werner Gura (in the otherwise unimpressive Herreweghe SMP2).

Juozas Rimas wrote (September 9, 2002):
[To Philippe Bareille] What cantatas has he sung and with what conductors?

Juozas Rimas wrote (September 9, 2002):
[To Therry van Bastelaer] I listened to "Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen" from Herre's 1999 SMP – the singer is good but the oboist seems to be better... A strange combination. I found the voice to be a bit to "open" when singing louder.

What sets can Pregardien be found in?

Therry van Bastelaer wrote (September 9, 2002):
[To Juozas Rimas] Selected Pregardien Bach recordings include:

- volumes 2, 5, 9, 11 and 12 of Koopman's Cantata project (Erato);
- Xmas Oratorio with Koopman (Erato) and Otto (Capriccio);
- SMP with Koopman (Erato) and Harnoncourt (Teldec);
- SJP with Corboz (Cascavelle), Kuijken (Editio Classica) and Bruggen (Philips);
- cantatas BWV 36, BWV 61 and BWV 62 with Herreweghe (HM);
- B Minor with Herreweghe (HM) and Jacobs (Berlin);
- secular cantatas with Jacobs (HM);
- cantatas BWV 206 and BWV 207a with Bernius (Sony);
- Magnificat and cantata BWV 21 with Kuijken (Virgin);
- "cello piccolo" cantatas by with (Astree).

Among these, I have a particular weakness for the last three sets. Preagarding also sings some sacred songs on Rilling's set of "Chorale-settings for Johann Sebastian" on Hänssler.

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 9, 2002):
<< Philippe Bareill wrote: I think the best is Kurt Equiluz. >>
< Juozas Rimas Jr asked: What cantatas has he sung and with what conductors? >
Check Aryeh's site for questions such as these:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Equiluz-Kurt.htm

Juozas Rimas wrote (September 9, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thanks! I'm using the website extensively to search for recordings of particular cantatas. I somehow didn't notice it had an index by artist's name.

Pete Blue wrote (September 9, 2002):
[To Juozas Rimas] If you want great Bach tenor singing, you need a great tenor, not just a BACH tenor. Leaving aside the Passion Evangelist, who has different requirements, off the top of my head only three come to mind who have not been mentioned so far. They all date wayyyyy back.

(1) Nicolai Gedda singing the tenor arias in the soporific Klemperer SMP. Many find the Klemperer SMP glorious; I find it glutenous. Gedda, though, sounds really good here, recorded at a time when he was vocally at his peak.

(2) Fritz Wunderlich in the Karl Bohm live-performance SMP on Myto, also with Wilma Lipp and Christa Ludwig (although disfigured for me by bass Otto Weiner, who has a wobble you could drive a semi through). Wunderlich is not only in glorious voice, as usual, but sounds involved here, moreso than in his SJP under Karl Forster. However, the oboe tone in the "Ich Will" aria is weird. You have the opposite of what Juozas heard in the Herreweghe: here, it seems to be the tenor who's sweet and the oboist who's sour.

(3) Jan Peerce, with the Bach Aria Group, whom I have on an old American Decca LP singing "Ich traue seiner Gnaden" from Cantata BWV 97, "Jesus nimmt die Sunder an" from Cantata BWV 115 (Julius Baker is the flutist), and the duet "Zweig unde Aste" from the Aeolus Cantata BWV 205 with alto Carol Smith. The Bach Aria Group -- four distinguished singers, violin, oboe, flute, and continuo (piano and cello) -- was formed after WWII and in the 1950s was my live-concert introduction to the Cantatas. I recall that the sight of huge Eileen Farrell alongside barely-five-foot Jan Peerce made me giggle, until they opened their mouths.

Due to the current Great-Tenor famine in all areas of classical music, we have to contend with ho-hum performances much of the time. The situation's even worse in early music, beacuse even a fair-to-middling tenorino is too easily lured by the glamorous siren call of opera and the like, however unsuited thereto his voice may be. Lots of luck finding a really praiseworthy tenor performing Bach arias today.

Juozas Rimas wrote (September 10, 2002):
< Pete Blue wrote:
(1) Nicolai Gedda singing the tenor arias in the soporific Klemperer SMP. Many find the Klemperer SMP glorious; I find it glutenous. Gedda, though, sounds really good here, recorded at a time when he was vocally at his peak. >
I have listened to the aria in 1961 Klemperer - the tempo is a bit(?) too slow (I don't like this movement fast but here it's unnaturally slow - Richter gave a better example back in 1958). The tenor is indeed better than the oboe (more of a zurna in this case) but he has to sing very long notes because of the tempo, and here he employs a somewhat operatic style. He doesn't seem to sing better than Haefliger in the mentioned Richter's set to me.

BTW, regardless of the poor overall impression of the Klemperer's SMP, I'd keep it just for Dieskau's Jesus. I love the way he sings "Meine Seele is betruebt" and other recitatives that I found very hard to listen to at first. And Schwarzkopf controls her voice well - never passing the line between singing and soft screaming, like certain sopranos do. The Klemperer's set is a mixture of good and not so good singers and strange conducting, IMO.

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 10, 2002):
< Thierry van Bastelaer indicated:
Selected Pregardien Bach recordings include:
- volumes 2, 5, 9, 11 and 12 of Koopman's Cantata project (Erato);
- Xmas Oratorio with Koopman (Erato) and Otto (Capriccio);
- SMP with Koopman (Erato) and Harnoncourt (Teldec);
- SJP with Corboz (Cascavelle), Kuijken (Editio Classica) and Bruggen (Philips);
- cantatas
BWV 36, BWV 61 and BWV 62 with Herreweghe (HM);
- B Minor with Herreweghe (HM) and Jacobs (Berlin);
- secular cantatas with Jacobs (HM);
- cantatas
BWV 206 and BWV 207a with Bernius (Sony);
- Magnificat and cantata
BWV 21 with Kuijken (Virgin);
- "cello piccolo" cantatas by with (Astree).
Among these, I have a particular weakness for the lastthree sets. Preagarding also sings some sacred songs on Rilling's set of "Chorale-settings for Johann Sebastian" on Hänssler. >
A good listing, and probably more thorough one can be found on Aryeh's site:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Pregardien-Christoph.htm

If something is missing, send Aryeh a note about this.

William D. Kasimer wrote (Septembe10, 2002):
< If you want great Bach tenor singing, you need a great tenor, not just a BACH tenor. Leaving aside the Passion Evangelist, who has different requirements, off the top of my head only three come to mind who have not been mentioned so far. They all date wayyyyy back.

(1) Nicolai Gedda singing the tenor arias in the soporific Klemperer SMP. >
FWIW, I consider Gedda among the liabilities of this particular set.

< (2) Fritz Wunderlich in the Karl Bohm live-performance SMP on Myto, also with Wilma Lipp and Christa Ludwig (although disfigured for me by bass Otto Weiner, who has a wobble you could drive a semi through). >
Wunderlich also sings the arias on the commercial set conducted by Münchinger. I agree - the arias really can't be sung much better than this.

I would also add the wonderful Hungarian tenor, Joszef Reti. His recorded legacy is rather small, alas, but it does contain a Bach cantata or two, as well as a St. John Evangelist.

And I can't possibly omit Aksel Schiotz's recordings of arias from the SMP and SJP.

Even so, if I had to take one Bach tenor to my desert island, it would be Equiluz.

Pete Blue wrote (September 10, 2002):
[To William D. Kasimer] Thanks for the reminder of Schiotz. Of course he belongs among the great Bach tenors. I didn't mention Equiluz because he had already been mentioned. I would also put Ernst Haefliger in this pantheon. I didn't know of Reti; I will try to check him out.

Pete Blue wrote (September 10, 2002):
P.S.:
Another great tenor in the SMP arias: Anton Dermota (for Furtwangler). As a teenage tourist in Salzburg I saw Dermota in his prime play Tamino -- a ravishing sound in person, with plenty of squillo.

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Last update: ưApril 23, 2005 ư08:22:37