March 24, 2017
Bach’s Magnificat survives in two versions: the original, in E♭, composed in 1723, and a revision, transposed down a half-step to D Major, dating from about a decade later. The original included four interpolated chorales that are rarely heard today because they were omitted from the much more popular revision. Among my collected Magnificats the D-Majors outnumber the E♭s by a ratio of 10 to one, and the competition is, to say the least, a healthy one. I won’t impute that Alexander Weimann has shaped his program for competitive advantage, but his two surprises can’t hurt. First, he’s included the four chorales from the E♭ score in his D-Major performance. Second, he has recorded a Christmas cantata by Johann Kuhnau, Bach’s predecessor as Leipzig’s cantor. Recordings of Kuhnau’s Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern are, unless I miss my guess, considerably rarer than those of the interpolated chorales. The good news is that the Kuhnau canata is an agreeable piece. It’s not Bach, but it’s well worth your time, and it’s well sung. The chorales should satisfy your curiosity, too, though I would have preferred a chorus to the solo quartet. The soloists, however, acquit themselves well in the choral movements of the Magnificat proper. Overall, this is an OK disc that gets a boost from its unusual inclusions.
© George Chien - Fanfare
American Record Guide
March 14, 2017
Among the first works JS Bach wrote on his appointment as Cantor of St Thomas Church in Leipzig was a festive Magnificat in E-flat. In his notes to this recording, Jacques-André Houle says that it was probably written for the Feast of the Visitation in July of 1723, but for Christmas Vespers of that year Bach added four seasonal movements that were inserted at various points. Some years later, between 1732 and 1735, Bach revised the work, transposing it to D, making some changes in instrumentation, and omitting the Christmas movements. That is the version most often heard. Here it is performed with the Christmas inserts included and appropriately transposed. It is worth noting that Bach’s work is very similar in format and instrumentation to a Magnificat in C by Kuhnau, a work that also has four Christmas inserts with the same texts and inserted in the same places in the Magnificat text. Perhaps Bach was paying tribute to his predecessor, or was he demonstrating to the Leipzig city fathers, for whom Bach was the third choice for the job after Telemann and Graupner, that he could outplay Kuhnau at his own game?
Bach’s masterpiece is paired here with Kuhnau’s Christmas cantata Wie Schön Leuchtet der Morgenstern (How Brightly Shines the Morning Star). The opening and closing movements are based on the chorale, and the inner movements are alternating recitatives and arias plus a chorus, ‘Uns ist ein Kind Geboren’ (Unto us a child is born). The work thus embodies the ideal advanced by Erdmann Neumeister (1671–1756) that a church cantata should resemble a “piece out of an opera” in contrast with the sacred concertos of earlier generations of German composers.
These performances are sung by solo voices with an orchestra of period instruments. There is strong evidence that this repertory was originally sung one voice to a part, though many listeners may demand a more conventional choir for the choruses. I find the performances entirely convincing, with the possible exception of the two final choruses of the Bach Magnificat, where I miss the more massive choral sound. The singers themselves are vocally solid and display a keen stylistic understanding of the idiom. Alexander Weimann directs performances of great poise and elegance, though there are movements that seem rushed and driven. Perhaps the most extreme is the tenor aria ‘Deposuit’ from the Bach Magnificat. Tenor Zachary Wilder demonstrates that he is able to sing the aria at that tempo, but he shouldn’t have to. An increase in tempo does not necessarily translate into an increase in ferocity.
No single recording of a great and familiar work will ever be perfect, and opinions will differ as to performance decisions. Readers looking for a first Bach Magnificat recording could do far worse, if they find the solo voice satisfactory. Even if you have a few recordings you may wish to add this one. You will find the Kuhnau cantata a delicious bonus.
William J Gatens - American Record Guide
January 27, 2017
Bach composed the Magnificat for Christmas 1723. The work was originally in E-flat Major but revised to the lower tonality of D Major. Like most recordings this CD presents the revised version but with two differences. The first version included four interpolations. These have been included (transposed in accordance with the D-Major tonality) on the present recording. A more substantial difference with most performances lies in the handling of the choral sections. Most performances observe a marked difference between the solo and the choral sections but Weimann’s interpretation follows the views of Joshua Rifkin and Andrew Parrott that the choral sections should also be sung one to a part. The gain in clarity in movements like Fecit Potentiam and Sicut locutus is unmistakable. There is an odd error in the Table of Contents which states that Suscepit Israel is a duet between the two soprano voices. It is actually a trio with the alto taking the lowest part.
The performance is very successful and several moments stand out: the virtuoso trumpets in the opening and closing movements, the soprano solo (Johanna Winkel) and oboe d’amore obbligato (Matthew Jennejohn) in Quia respexit, the alto and tenor duet (James Laing and Zachary Wilder) in Et misericordia and the alto solo and the flutes’ obbligato (Claire Guimond and Alexa Raine-Wright) in Esurientes implevit bonis.
The CD also contains Johann Kuhnau’s Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, also for five voices and also performed one to a part. It is an imaginative coupling: Kuhnau is best known as Bach’s predecessor as cantor of Saint Thomas’ in Leipzig, but he is clearly an important composer, whose works are worth listening to for their own sake.
Hans de Groot – The WholeNote
Le Parnasse musical
December 12, 2016
Les quatre laudes intercalés dans le Magnificat d’origine étaient destinés pour les vêpres de Noël de 1723. Ce sont des pièces rarement entendues. Simon Preston et Christopher Hogwood ont été les premiers en 1975 à les réintroduire dans l’enregistrement sur Oiseau-Lyre/Decca. L’œuvre, ainsi augmentée, prend alors des couleurs semblables à l’Oratorio de Noël que nous connaissons bien.
Le choix d’un soliste par partie pour le chœur semble bien à la mode depuis quelques temps. Disons le tout de suite, c’est le seul point faible de cet enregistrement. À Noël, nous voulons entendre des chœurs! Cette mode des solistes est facilement justifiée pour des questions budgétaires, on imagine…En contrepartie la musique de Bach devient beaucoup plus détaillée, c’est évident. Surtout dans cette partition qui nécessite une formation de deux sopranos, alto, ténor et basse. La version Simon Preston présentait un chœur d’enfants pas toujours juste et un peu confus.
Weimann, quant à lui, a choisi des voix vraiment excellentes. Le quintette vocal est irréprochable. Son esthétisme se situe entre les voix blanches sans vibratos des premières exécutions baroques, et les grandes voix d’opéra à la Verdi. Un juste milieu, où tous les solistes brillent chacun à sa façon. L’exécution d’ensemble est brillante, d’où on notera la justesse des trompettes naturelles. Et parfois, l’émotion nous prend au passage comme dans le misericordia pour alto et ténor, enrobé par la sourdine des cordes. Les pupitres d’Arion sont ici traités avec toute la douceur requise. Poignant.
La cantate de Noël de Johann Kuhnau est le complément idéal pour clore le disque. Écrite avant Bach, elle étonne par sa luminosité et ne laisse transparaître aucune austérité du style ancien de cette époque. Le ténor Zachary Wilder fait une remarquable présence par ses talents de récitants au travers de cette œuvre courte, mais d’une réelle beauté.
Le Parnasse musical
Voix des Arts
November 25, 2016
One of his generation’s finest exponents of Baroque repertory, Wilder is heard at his estimable best in the recently-released ATMA Classique recording of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Magnificat (BWV 243) and Johann Kuhnau’s Cantata ‘Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern’ [ACD22727]. His singing of Bach’s ‘Et misericordia’ (with countertenor James Laing) and ‘Deposuit potentes’ and Kuhnau’s ‘Ich huld’ge dir, grossmächt’ger Prinz’ exudes confidence and absolute comfort with both composers’ idioms.
Voix des Arts - Joseph Newsome
Full review: HERE
November 4, 2016
Bach selon l'Orchestre baroque Arion : le baroque dans toute sa splendeur
« Le baroque, il faut que ce soit juste, il faut que ce soit bien joué. C'est le cas ici », dit Frédéric Lambert au sujet du nouvel opus de cet ensemble montréalais, consacré au Magnificat en ré majeur de Jean-Sébastien Bach et dirigé par Alexander Weimann. À temps pour Noël, quelques classiques du Temps des Fêtes ont également été ajoutés au répertoire. Frédéric Lambert a particulièrement apprécié le travail des chanteurs et de l'orchestre : « C'est vraiment, vraiment impressionnant. [...] C'est peut-être le meilleur disque d'Arion jusqu'à maintenant. »
To listen to Frédéric Lambert: ICI
Music for Several Instruments
October 31, 2016
The Montreal-based Arion Orchestre Baroque, led by Alexander Weimann provides an authentic 18th century German Christmas celebration in this excellent new disc from ATMA Classique (due November 4, 2016). With a relatively small (26 player) orchestra and five vocal soloists doubling as the choir, you'd expect a small-scale, intimate performance, but there's also plenty of pomp and exultation to go with the quiet, personal story of a young girl and an angel. Here's the scene at Église Saint-Augustin, Mirabel, from the December 5, 2015 concert at which with album was recorded (from the album booklet; photograph by Jean Guimond).
There are two other things special about this recording. The first is the inclusion of the four laudes, Christmas hymns interpolated into an earlier version of the Magnificat that are rarely included in performance or recordings. The second is the marvellous Christmas Day Cantata by Johann Kuhlau, which is really quite beautiful, and which deserves much more attention in people's Christmas playlists. This disc will certainly feature in mine!
Dean Frey - Blog:Music for several instruments