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Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248

Conducted by Nicholas McGegan


Not yet released.


McGegan - Christmas Oratorio

Randy Lane wrote (December 4, 2006):
Nicholas McGegan and his Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra (PBO) are performing the Chrsitmas Oratorio in several locations this month. I attended one of the two performances in Berkeley , CA last night. The PBO was outstanding, as can be said for McGegan's direction. I couldn't ask for more. The PBO is at least on a par with the Gardiner and Suzuki groups in terms of execution. McGegan has the insightfulness of Gardiner and garners a certain amount of the precision one usually gets from Suzuki. I felt like I experienced the best of both of those ensembles in one package last night.

The Philharmonia Baroque Choir was equally skilled and directed. I only wish the size had perhaps been a little bit smaller. At 6 voices per part the choir seemed just a tad too large. Perhaps 4-5 voices per part would have given the total experience better balance.

The vocal solists were a mixed bag. Thomas Crowley was a decent Evangelist, but seemed almost to be a mere narrator until the final cantata. Michael Colvin was acceptable in the tenor parts. Nathaniel Watson, a baritone, was a very admirable bass. There was a degree of dramatic excitement in his performance that stirred things up at just the right time. But Elizabeth Turnbull stole the show, at least in the opinion of me and my wife. Her rendition of "Schlafe, mein Liebster, geneiße der Ruh" (Sleep, mey dearest, enjoy the rest) in Part II was breathtaking. My wife commented that it almost made her want to sleep. The soprano, Susanne Rydén, was a disappointment. She seemed to lack energy and range in almost all her parts. Only the aria in Part iv "Flößt, mein Heiland, flößt den Namen" (Does Your name, my Savior) was memorable in any way.

All in all, a splendid night. I fell so blessed to live in teh S. F. Bay Area and thereby have access to live performances by a genuinely world class HIP ensemble like the PBO. McGegan being a Handel expert, we don't get many opportunities to witness them in a major Bach program.

The soloists that get lined up for teh Handel programs tend to be more wolrd-renowned than those assembled for this Bach program. Just go the website at and look at the line up for the April 2007 production of Belshazzar and I think you will agree with me. I hope these concerts are a start to some major Bach productions by PBO in the future, hopefully along the same lines as we've come to expect from tehir Handel productions.

Pal Domokos wrote (December 7, 2006):
[To Randy Lane] It must have been a great night, Randy! Did they play all six cantatas?

BTW: Do you know of any Bach recordings of McGegan? There are not many listed at: . I really like his Händel.

Eric Bergerud wrote (December 7, 2006):
Christmas Oratorio/Bay Area Bach

[To Pal Domokos] The whole Oratorio is being performed. There will be performances in San Francisco on December 8th and one in Lafayette on Dec 9.

I must admit to preferring the American Bach Soloists, maybe because they play much more Bach. (They're up for a Messiah in Davis Dec 16 & 17 and at SF's Grace Cathedral on Dec 18 & 19.) The ABS was founded to play Bach cantatas by UC Berkeley types in the 80's when the period instrument movement was hot. (John Butt was head of things originally I think.) They've done some cantata nice recordings (some available), but have retreated from their vocation having learned it's easier to sell tickets to instrumental concerts. This year they will be doing OVPP New Year's cantatas with a boy soloist (a first in my experience) at various Bay Area venues January 19-22. They'll be back with cantatas March 23-26 (BWV 12, BWV 18, BWV 106, BWV 132, BWV 196). (Amazon does have a used copy of their "Transcriptions of Italian Music" which includes a Vivaldi concerto "improved" by Bach and a delightful Psalm 51, BWV 1083, based on Pergolesi's Sabat Mater. Not only is it a lovely work by Bach but when you compare it the even more famous original you can hear the shift from Bach's "high baroque" to the "gallant" early classical despite the many similarities between the two. My Pergolesi version highlights Cecilia Bartoli as mezzo: sure wish she'd sing Bach.)

I'm not sure that makes us blessed to live in the Bay Area but two cantata concerts in a year is a new record in my experience: better than none. Unfortunately neither the ABS or Philarmonia Baroque play anything like a full season and both compete with each other during the holidays. I've never heard the "big guns" play live (heard Gardiner with the ORR) and only the ABS recorded so it's not possible to make a direct comparison with other groups. Considering the limited seasons and rather limited audiance, I rather doubt either would be quite up to the level of a top European or even Canadian ensembles. But, again, they sure beat nothing.

Locals can also take in a performance of the Mass in B (BWV 232) given by a local amateur ensemble (no web page) on Friday December 8th at the Arlington Community Church in Kensington at 8pm and St. Mary Magdalen Church in Berkeley on Sunday December 10 at 4pm. Admission free but contributions accepted as I understand it. One of the players is a friend of mine and he thinks they'll put on a good show but without the polish expected from professional groups. I like that kind of music in general unless there is a seriously "off" night. It's in a grand tradition of music making and I wish there was more of it. If nothing else you don't have to put out $100, although if they'd sell popcorn it would push the cost of a movie. (If some of the pessimists are right about the state of professional grade classical music in the US, we might all hope to hear more of it.)

Randy Lane wrote (December 7, 2006):
[To Pal Domokos] Yes, all 6 cantatas were played.

I don't know of any Bach recordings yet, no. There aren't any listed on their website either.

Hopefully that will change in a few years.

Pal Domokos wrote (December 8, 2006):
[To Eric Bergerud] I don't have any CD of ABS but I see that they're selling a few themselves:
Do you have these recordings? Which one would you suggest for a first experience of ABS?


Continue of the part of the discussion, see: American Bach Soloists - General Discussions [Performers]


Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248: Details
Recordings: 1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019 | Individual Movements
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
Systematic Discussions:
Cantata 1 | Cantata 2 | Cantata 3 | Cantata 4 | Cantata 5 | Cantata 6 | Part 7: Summary
Individual Recordings:
BWV 248 - Collegium Aureum | BWV 248 - H. Christophers | BWV 248 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 248 - N. Harnoncourt | BWV 248 - R. Jacobs | BWV 248 - N. McGegan | BWV 248 - R. Otto | BWV 248 - K. Richter | BWV 248 - H. Rilling | BWV 248 - P. Schreier | BWV 248 - M. Suzuki | BWV 248 - K. Thomas | BWV 248 - J.v. Veldhoven
A Bottomless Bucket of Bach - Christmas Oratorio [D. Satz] | BWV 248/19 “Schlafe, mein Liebster” - A Background Study with Focus on the Colla Parte Flauto Traverso Part [T. Braatz]

Nicholas McGegan: Short Biography | Recordings | BWV 248 - McGegan
Bach Without Fear [by Nicholas McGegan]

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Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127

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Last update: ýDecember 10, 2006 ý17:48:05