Friday, December 11, 2009

Attempting to acquaint myself with Bach's cantatas

I love Bach's cantatas, though I can only recognise a small number by name. In 2001, I bought a copy of the Teldec Bach 2000 set, and, like many, found that the cantatas were less than satisfactory. The worst bit is the number of times the boy sopranos are out of tune. About 6 of the 60 CDs are actually painful, and it was good to be able to listen to all of Bach's works.

The booklets are very helpful, and it is interesting to be able to listen to all of Bach's extant works. My set cost me $1500 for 153, which sounds cheap at $10 per CD, but now there is a Dutch set of Bach's compositions that costs about $300. It does not include any printed information, but you can get this from a CD-ROM or online, I think.

But I am collecting Eliot Gardiner's wonderful Bach Pilgrimage set which is greatly superior to the Harnoncourt Teldec set.

I've discovered the excellent Bach cantatas website, linked to above, has enough information to answer almost any question I could ask about the sacred cantatas.

And Christoph Wolff's book gives you details of the three year cycle that Bach composed, most of which is extant. So you can go through the church year, listening to the relevant cantatas for each day or week or part of the Christian calendar.

I listened to BWV 61 today, as the first step on my journey.

You know what they say: the greatest journey begins with ...
a trip to the bathroom.

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