BACH, Johann Sebastian
Julian Wachner, Boston Bach Ensemble, Anne Harley, Thomas Gregg, Robert
Titanic 5 569 72 7 [147.44]
Along with the Magnificat and the St. Matthew Passion, Bach's Christmas Oratorio
is one of his most popular choral works. Bach composed his music emotively
and dramatically. Titanic's Christmas Oratorio is a moving presentation,
one that uses a fresh contemporary approach to draw the listeners closely
into its world. In most cases, the sound is closely miked, giving the solo
arias an almost intimate aura. As the evangelist, tenor Robert Pitcher sings
"In ihrem Herzen" with dramatic tenderness. Soprano Anne Harley sings the
famous "Echo" song, "Flößt, mein Heiland," with a scintillating
lyrical voice. Conductor Julian Wachner places the echo sopranos closer to
her than usual, creating a nice cozy atmosphere. While this parody from Hercules
always seems an oddly inappropriate transposition, I'm glad it's in the oratorio.
Tenor Thomas Gregg sings "Ich will nur dir zu Ehren Leben" with a competent
melisma, but one that sounds understated, languid even, as if he's accustomed
to singing 19th Century lieder. This is not to undervalue his
approach. It is consistent with Wachner's contemporary style and as such
is perfectly acceptable.
I prefer Hänssler Edition's Christmas Oratorio
(92.076), partly because
in pieces like "Ich will nur dir zu Ehren Leben" the tempo is livelier and
tenor Marcus Ullmann's melisma is organic to his snappy singing style . But
you may find it difficult to prefer one to the other because the aria is
about strength, not speed. Rilling's choral finale "Nur seid ihr wohl gerochen"
is particularly brisk, with sharp differentiation between the two choruses.
Perhaps it is a little too brisk, as if everybody's in a hurry to get home
after church services. In this respect, finales in other versions tend to
be longer longer, allows more time to digest the machinations of Bach's
counterpoint. They have more pomp. You could even say they're more pious.