J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

Six Favourite Cantatas

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Joshua Rifkin
Accompaniment/Orchestra:Bach Ensemble
Soloists:BWV 147, BWV 80:
Jane Bryden, Sorprano
Drew Minter, Countertenor
Jeffery Thomas, Tenor
Jan Opalach, Bass
BWV 8:
Julianne Baird, Sorprano
Allan Fast, Countertenor
Frank Kelley, Tenor
Jan Opalach, Bass
BWV 140:
Julianne Baird, Sorprano
Drew Minter, Countertenor
Jeffery Thomas, Tenor
Jan Opalach, Bass
BWV 51:
Julianne Baird, Sorprano
BWV 78:
Julianne Baird, Sorprano
Allan Fast, Countertenor
Frank Kelley, Tenor
Jan Opalach, Bass
Viola da Gamba
Individual Works:CD 1:
Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147
Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, BWV 80
Liebster Gott, wann werd ich sterben

CD 2:
Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140
Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, BWV 51
Jesu, der du meine Seele, BWV 78

Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:L'Oiseau Lyre
Catalog Number:455706
Year Released/Recorded:1985: 147; 80 ; 1986: 140; 51 ; 1988: 8; 78
Total Playing Time:136:29
Comments:Thomas Hubeart said:

This budget-priced, 2 CD compilation of previously-released recordings by Rifkin offers worthy performances of these works, given with the "one-to-a-part" renderings of the choral movements for which he has become famous. (Briefly, Rifkin's conviction is that Bach's choruses would have been sung one-to-a-part in Leipzig, and that Bach's description of what a chorus requires in his "Short but Most Necessary Draft for a Well-Appointed Church Music" of 1730 represents an ideal, not necessarily what was at the composer's disposal.) If one can get around the relative oddity of choruses sung as vocal quartets, one will find that the singing and playing is done with conviction and skill, and the rendering of the scores is informed by current research--for example, the discarding of the additional trumpet and drum parts in BWV 80, which are not Bach's at all but were added by his son Wilhelm Friedemann, who reused two movements of this cantata and adapted them to Latin texts.

The performance of BWV 8, set to verses of meditation on death, is especially fine, with a particularly noteworthy "Doch weichet, ihr tollen," a bass aria which offers a hopeful contrast to the "memento mori" theme.

Rich Rosenwald said:

This L'Oiseau Lyre 2-CD set is excellent and features re-issues of great recordings that Joshua Rifkin did in the 1980's for Decca on Period instruments. BWV 78 is famous and has a good organ motive for the famous duet "Wir eilen mit schwachen". I liked the uniqueness of leaving the choir out of BWV 140, but using one voice to a part. Probably not how Bach intended it to be, but innovative. You will have to get used to it for a while, but once you do, you'll appreciate it. BWV 51 is unmatched. I loved the sorprano voice with trumpet overlaying. BWV 8 is a solemn piece and is relaxing.

The following was issued before in the following way:

BWV 147 and BWV 80 were on L'Oiseau Lyre 417250

BWV 8 was part of a 4-cantata disc L'Oiseau Lyre 444166 with Cantatas 106, 131, and 99.

BWV 140, 51, and 78 were on L'Oiseau Lyre 443188

JJM said:

This is an example of Historically Informed Performance gone wrong....Joshua Rifkin's research into Bach's one voice per part (OVPP) choir is to be commended, whether it's true or not. However, in terms of both interpretation and recording quality, one could not ask for a worse example of period instrument performance, or performance on ANY type of instrument for that matter. The cantatas are played quite listlessly, very clean, every note in place....an attempt at perfection while sacrificing musicality and emotion. The continuo is without imagination whatsoever, and the choral sound is consistently lacking warmth and presence. Whether this is a consequence of using OVVP or just ineptitude on the part of the sound engineers is debatable. Paul McCreesh uses OVVP to astounding effect, so perhaps it's the latter fault. In any case, this recording gets two thumbs down for boring, turgid, overly academic performances of otherwise beautiful music; poor sound quality, analagous to a photo that's just almost in focus but a little fuzzy around the edges; and a total absence of feeling and emotion on the part of the instrumentalists and singers, and ultimately the director, Joshua Rifkin.

Acknowledgements:Thank you to the following for submitting this recording and for your comments:
  • Rich Rosenwald
  • Thomas Hubeart
  • JJM
Date First Submitted:02/16/1998