Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Complete Edition
157 CDs, 2 DVDs, 1 DVD-ROM
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94050 [c. 170:00:00]
Box illustration –
This is the third Complete Bach edition to be issued by Brilliant. The former, second, incarnation has been reviewed on this site, and you’ll note that there are some differences between the two sets. One such is the replacement of the big CD booklet notes by a DVD-ROM which, in addition to the notes, contains the complete scores, and sung texts. Another significant change has been the replacement of some performances.
I have sampled the set, dipping in to test the water, so to speak, and these are my thoughts;
Orchestral and Chamber Works
The discs are colour-housed according to genre, so I’m tempted to discuss everything in that way (but won’t). Turquoise sleeves house the orchestral and chamber works. I have reviewed some of these 23 discs before so will send you there for Mark Lubotsky’s solo violin sonatas and partitas. The Brandenburg Concertos are played by Musica Amphion directed by the ubiquitous Pieter-Jan Belder, and these performances replace The Consort of London traversals. Musica Amphion play dangerously and court danger – the performances can be a touch chaotic in places – and can be a bit sticky too, but they’re realistic for the price bracket. Emmy Verhey’s Violin Concertos have also been discarded in favour of Dmitry Sitkovetsky’s self-directed set with the English Chamber Orchestra from 1987 – efficient and suitably expressive. Another casualty is Robert Cohen who makes way for Jaap ter Linden in the Cello suites. This is a more radical set, on original instruments, but with consistently relaxed tempi and an absence of abrasive bow strokes. Jakob Lindberg’s lute suites are another decided plus whilst the violin sonatas are in the hands of Luis Otavio Santos (on a baroque violin) and Belder.
Keyboard Works
Belder undertakes many of the honours in this section. I’ve already reviewed his Goldberg Variations and various other pieces, which he naturally plays on the harpsichord as indeed he does for the ‘48’ which replaces the recording in the previous box by Leon Berben. Belder however espouses the keyboard partitas though other harpsichordists have their say as well. Ex-Bis we still have Joseph Payne’s French Suites (good) whilst Bob van Asperen does likewise for the English suites and Christiane Wuyts plays a selection of miscellaneous keyboard works from 1700-1710. The Toccatas are in the hands of Menno van Delft who also takes on the daunting Art of Fugue.
The cantatas don’t run consecutively in this box, so to find the one you want you’ll need to know its BWV number and read it off the index, which is housed in the box lid – it will then take you to the relevant CD number. If you are not sure of the BWV, then you’ll have to do some squirming through three columns of BWV numbers. These performances are all by Pieter Jan Leusink and the forces of the Netherlands Bach Collegium and Holland Boys’ Choir. They were certainly done in a hurry, around 1999 and onwards, which accounts for some of the rough edges, but since the forces remained pretty much intact for the whole period of recording there is a uniformity of approach and of ambition that impresses. In the main the male singers are superior to the female. Ruth Holton has a rather boyish timbre, not unattractively so and her BWV199 Mein Herze Schwimmt Im Blut is commendable, though perhaps a little unsteady. The instrumental contributions are energetic and alert, here, and – for example – in BWV103 Ihr Werdet Weinen Und Heulen, where the recorders are delightfully to the fore, though the chorus is a bit rough. Sytse Buwalda is the counter-tenor and – sample CD73, which contains BWV 60, 78 and 151 - can be rather strident. Wachet Auf is nicely paced and interpreted. Marcel Beekman’s light, focused and pleasing tenor is an asset. Knut Schoch, Robert Getchell and Nico van der Meel are the other principal tenors. Not inappropriately the bass is Bas Ramselaar and his Ich habe Genug BWV82 is quite elegantly done, if not especially sonorously.
Vocal Works
This category covers CDs 107-140 and takes in Masses, oratorio, secular cantatas, motets, the Magnificat and the chorales. Peter Schreier’s Berlin performances of the secular cantatas were made between the late 1970s and early 1980s. The cast list is stellar and the performances still strike one as resilient, in the best sense, and communicative. The Mass in B is the Lugano performance of 1997 directed by Diego Fasolis with singers such as Lynne Dawson, Christoph Prégardien and Klaus Mertens. This period instrument performance is really pretty good, with incisive speeds and a firm sense of direction, a small but focused choir and a homogeneous and characterful vocal line-up. The St Matthew Passion comes from King’s College Chapel, Cambridge under the direction of Stephen Cleobury with a first class vocal team, the Brandenburg Consort and fine 1994 recording quality. Rather like the Fasolis Mass in B, this is an elegant and crisp traversal, and will rightly find many admirers though listeners who respond to more extrovert emphases will search elsewhere. A major advantage of Cleobury’s St John Passion is the appendix which includes the 1725 variant chorales and arias, often excised - which is not to decry the scrupulous-sounding preparation and execution of the performance at all. The St Mark Passion is conducted by the violin-leader of the Brandenburg Consort, Roy Goodman. For this assignment he actually leads the Ring Ensemble of Finland and the European Union Baroque Orchestra, One of Cleobury’s mainstays, the excellent Paul Agnew, is here again, as is Rogers Covey-Crump. The performance dates from March 1996.
Organ works
Hans Fagius, organ
Some critics have been rude about Hans Fagius’s recordings but I’m certainly not inclined to agree with them. I know him best from his splendid advocacy for the organ music of Karg-Elert though clearly this Bachian project was a particularly difficult and inevitably focused one, given he had to fill seven discs for BIS. He does so splendidly realising the range of music with exemplary imagination and control. He is as thoughtful in the chorale preludes as he is bracing in the Fantasias or as minutely characterful in, say, the Orgelbüchlein.
Finally there are three DVDS; one of the St Matthew Passion, and another of the St John Passion – both under Cleobury – and an appendix DVD with the complete scores of Bach’s works, booklet notes and texts, and a perhaps inevitable plug for the Brilliant Classics catalogue.
A final word: don’t confuse this latest edition of the Brilliant set with the earlier set, or that on Hänssler. That last has 172 CDs and 1 CD-ROM, and two booklets. Some performers include Rilling, Quasthoff, Banse and Bach Collegium Stuttgart. There is no overlap of recordings.
I can hardly make any sort of telling recommendation here. As usual with a gargantuan box such as this you’ll be getting ‘the works’ but not always in performances you’ll want to return to. In the end, though, I suppose I should add one final comment; I’ll be keeping my box.

Jonathan Woolf
I’ll be keeping this box.

Orchestral Works & Chamber Works

Brandenburg Concertos
Orchestral Suites
Violin concertos
Harpsichord concertos
Concertos for 2, 3, & 4 cembalos & strings
Double Concertos

Sonate e partite per Violino Solo
Cello Suites 1 - 6
Flute Sonatas BWV 1030 - 1035
Partita BWV1013
Lute Works BWV 995 - 1000
Viola da Gamba Sonatas
A Musical Offering BWV 1079
Violin Sonatas BWV 1014 - 1019, 1021 - 1023
Notenbüchlein für Anna Magdalena Bach
Trio Sonatas BWV 1038, 1039
Performing artists:
Musica Amphion, Pieter-Jan Belder
Consort of London, Robert Haydon Clark;
Dmitry Sitkovetsky, violin and director, ECO
Christine Schornsheim, harpsichord; Neues Bachisches Collegium Musicum, Burkhard Glaetzner
Netherlands Bach Ensemble, Krijn Koetsveld,
Mark Lubotsky, violin
Jaap ter Linden, cello
Jed Wentz, faluto traverse and Michael Borgstede, harpsichord
Jakob Lindberg, lute
John Dornenburg, viola da gamba and Malcolm Proud, harpsichord
Luis Otavio Santos, baroque violin and Pieter-Jan Belder, harpsichord
Trio Sonnerie, Ensemble Il Quadrifoglio, Bach Ensemble Heidelberg
Anton Heiller, harpsichord; I Solisti di Zagreb, Antonio Janigro

Keyboard Works 
The Well tempered Clavier
Goldberg variations
Italian Concerto, Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue, French Overture
Sonatas, Suites, Preludes & Fugues (works from the period 1700-1710)
English Suites
Concerto Transcriptions
French Suites
Art of Fugue
Sonatas, Suites, Fantasias
Preludes & Fugues
Inventionen & Sinfonias
Performing artists:
Bob van Asperen,
Pieter Dirksen,
Joseph Payne,
Menno van Delft,
Pieter-Jan Belder,
Léon Berben
Christiane Wuyts



BWV 80-82 & 61
BWV 16-170 & 133
BWV 97-132 & 72
BWV 113 & 42
BWV 33-56 & 37
BWV 92-54 & 44
BWV 111, 159, 165 & 22
BWV 114-57 & 155
BWV 98-188 & 23
BWV 135-86-85 & 167
BWV 172 & BWV 182 & BWV 90
BWV 106 & BWV 199 & BWV 161
BWV 99 & BWV 35 & BWV 17
BWV 123 & BWV 87 & BWV 173
BWV 117 & BWV 153 & BWV 168
BWV 130 & BWV 138 & BWV 81
BWV 149 & BWV 69 & BWV 169
BWV 45 & BWV 150 & BWV 122
BWV 116 & BWV 13 & BWV 144
BWV 102 & BWV 7 & BWV 196

BWV 46 & BWV 107 & BWV 179
BWV 6 & BWV 163 & BWV 96
BWV 178 & BWV 156 & BWV 27
BWV 115 & BWV 55 & BWV 94
BWV 26 & BWV 164 & BWV 139

BWV 103 & BWV 185 & BWV 2
BWV 60 & BWV 78 & BWV 151
BWV 128 & BWV 154 & BWV 62
BWV 192 & BWV 93 & BWV 145 & BWV 171
BWV 8 & BWV 186 & BWV 3
BWV 198 & BWV 110
BWV 73 & BWV 125 & BWV 157
BWV 9 & BWV 91 & BWV 47
BWV 152 & BWV 121 & BWV 166
BWV 36 & BWV 184 & BWV 129
BWV 140 & BWV 88 & BWV 79
BWV 194 & BWV 176 & BWV 89
BWV 100 & BWV 108 & BWV 18
BWV 40 & BWV 84 & BWV 30
BWV 136 & BWV 187 & BWV 49
BWV 195, BWV 1 & BWV 63
BWV 51, BWV 32 & BWV 14
BWV 109, BWV 58 & BWV 162
BWV 104, BWV 83, BWV 50 & BWV 183
BWV 5, BWV 38 & BWV 20
BWV 146, BWV 28 & BWV 48
BWV 39, BWV 143, BWV 175 & BWV 65
BWV 180, BWV 197 & BWV 52
BWV 137, BWV 25, BWV 119 & BWV 43
BWV 75, BWV 59 & BWV 21
BWV 101, 127, 95 & 124
BWV 12, 74 & 177
BWV 71, 76 & 10
BWV 64, 134 & 105
BWV 4, 158, 131 & 70
BWV 147, 181 & 66
BWV 148, 174, 112 & 68
BWV 77, 24, 126 & 67
BWV 34, 31 & 19
BWV 41, 29 & 120
Performing artists:
Holland Boys Choir; Netherlands Bach Collegium;
Ruth Holton, soprano; Marjon Strijk, soprano; Sytse Buwalda, alto; Marcel Beekman, tenor;
Nico van der Meel, tenor; Knut Schoch, tenor; Bas Ramselaar, bass;
Pieter Jan Leusink, conductor
Recording: June - July 2000  

Vocal Works

Mass in B Minor
4 masses
Easter Oratorio
Schemellis Gesangbuch
Weihnachtsoratorium BWV 248
Himmelfahrts-Oratorium BWV11
BWV 82a & BWV 238
Tilge, Höchster, meine Sünden BWV 1083
BWV 118 & BWV 200 & BWV 231
Magnificat BWV 243
Secular Cantatas
BWV 36c, 209 & 203
BWV 201, 202 & 210
BWV 204 & 208, 205 & 207
BWV 206 & 215, 211 & 212
BWV 213 & 214
Chorales from the collection of four-part Chorales
BWV 253 - 483
and separate Cantata Chorales
Performing artists:
Nordic Chamber Choir, Soloists of the Freiburger Barockorchester
Martina Rotbauer, Robert Sagasser: Viola da gamba 8’
Ute Petersilge, Baroque cello
Heike Hümmer, Violone
Jörg Halobek, Jens Wollenschläger, organ
Nicol Matt, conductor
St. Matthew Passion BWV 244
Rogers Covey-Crump, tenor (Evangelist)
Michael George, bass (Jesus)
Emma Kirkby, soprano
Michael Chance, alto
Martyn Hill, tenor
David Thomas, bass
The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge
The Choir of Jesus College, Cambridge (Soprano in ripieno)
The Brandenburg Consort (Leader: Roy Goodman)
Stephen Cleobury, conductor
Recording: 1994, King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, UK
Producer: Tini Mathot
Engineer: Adriaan Verstijnen, Erik Sikkema
St. Mark Passion BWV 247
In a reconstruction by Dr. Simon Heighes
Rogers Covey-Crump, tenor (Evangelist)
Gordon Jones, baritone (Jesus)
Connor Burrowes, treble
David James, alto
Paul Agnew, tenor
Teppo Tolonen, baritone
The Ring Ensemble of Finland
European Union Baroque Orchestra, Roy Goodman
Recording: 25-30 March 1996, Chapel of New College,
University of Oxford, UK
Producer: T.A. Diehl
Engineer: Bert van der Wolf
St. John Passion BWV 245
John Mark Ainsley, tenor (Evangelist)
Stephen Richardson, bass (Jesus)
Catherine Bott, soprano
Michael Chance, alto
Paul Agnew, tenor
Stephen Varcoe, bass
The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge
The Brandenburg Consort (Leader: Roy Goodman)
Stephen Cleobury, conductor
Recording: 18-21 March 1996, King’s College Chapel,
Cambridge, UK
Producer: Tini Mathot
Engineer: Adriaan Verstijnen
Weihnachtsoratorium BWV 248
Himmelfahrts-Oratorium BWV11
BWV 82a & BWV 238
Tilge, Höchster, meine Sünden BWV 1083
BWV 118 & BWV 200 & BWV 231
Magnificat BWV 243
Choräle Performing artists:
Arleen Augér; Annelies Burmeister; Peter Schreier; Theo Adam;
Dresdner Kreuzchor; Dresdner Philharmonie; Martin Fläming;
Marion Strijk; Sytse Buwalda; Knut Schoch; Bas Ramselaar;
Holland Boys Choir; Nederlands Bach Collegium; Pieter Jan Leusink
The Sixteen Choir & Orchestra; Harry Christophers;
Nordic Chamber Choir; Soloists of the Freiburger Barockorchester; Nicol Matt
Performing artists secular cantatas:
Edith Mathis, Arleen Augér, Lucia Popp, Soprano / Sopran
Carolyn Watkinson, Julia Hamari, Alto / Alt
Peter Schreier, Tenor
Theo Adam, Siegfried Lorenz, Bass
Berliner Solisten, Kammerorchester Berlin
Peter Schreier, Conductor

Choräle Performing artists:
Arleen Augér; Annelies Burmeister; Peter Schreier; Theo Adam;
Dresdner Kreuzchor; Dresdner Philharmonie; Martin Fläming;
Marion Strijk; Sytse Buwalda; Knut Schoch; Bas Ramselaar;
Holland Boys Choir; Nederlands Bach Collegium; Pieter Jan Leusink
The Sixteen Choir & Orchestra; Harry Christophers;
Nordic Chamber Choir; Soloists of the Freiburger Barockorchester; Nicol Matt

Performing performing artists

Catherine Dubosc, Catherine Denley, James Bowman, John Mark Ainsley, Michael George,
The Sixteen Choir & Orchestra, Harry Christophers,
Krahmer, Burmeister, Schreier, Adam,
Dresdner Kreuzchor, Dresdner Philharmonie, Martin Flämig
Ensemble Vocal de Lausanne, Michel Corboz
Motettenchor Pforzheim, Südwestdeutsches Kammerorchester, prof. Rolf Schweitzer
Georg Jelden, baritone; Heinz Schauffer, organ
Cristine Brenk, soprano; Anne Greiling, alto; Frank Bossert, tenor; Thomas Pfeiffer, bass;
Trompetenensemble Pfeiffer