BACH: Motets, BWV 225-230 and ANH 159 – Flemish Radio Choir/ Bo Holten, conductor – Glossa

by | Feb 13, 2009 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

BACH: Motets, BWV 225-230 and ANH 159 – Flemish Radio Choir/ Bo Holten, conductor – Glossa Multichannel SACD 922205, 69:43 **** [Distr. by Qualiton]:

Not too long ago I had the pleasure of reviewing a first-class recording of these seminal Bach works by the Netherlands Chamber Choir. Peter Dijkstra used a continuo-only approach there which works quite well. Herreweghe on Harmonia mundi uses an instrumental complement that is very well sung also, my favorite until the Dyjkstra popped up. I also called the Channel Classics issue the best-sounding ever. I think that statement holds true, but this new release from the Flemish Radio Choir offers stiff challenges in many areas.

One is the sound itself. While the Channel is closer up and perhaps cleaner, this new one makes slightly better use of the spatial elements in surround mode, with the various choral sections more clearly delineated in different speakers. The effect is a subtle one, but also one that is pleasing to the ear. Also pleasing is the physical sound of the choir, accompanied here by organ and violone alone in each of the motets (and neither of the players, curiously, are mentioned in the notes). It has what I can only consider a “grandmotherly” tone to it, not as sharp and incisive as the Channel, but more homogeneous and warmly legato in its phrasing. It is perhaps more piety-laden as opposed to the stricter liturgical sound of the Netherlands ensemble (both choirs are around 24-26 people). This is not critical in either direction, only a noticeable difference that makes for interesting comparisons and fresh options when you want to hear these works. Having three versions now, I think I am safe in saying that I cannot imagine these better sung in the future, though you never know. This new Glossa release is smooth, delightfully warm and comforting, and a little distant in perspective. Though I cannot recommend it over the Dijkstra version, I can’t imagine anyone not being happy with it. And as a bonus we get the “Ich lasse dich nicht” (ANH 159), not usually included in these collections.

— Steven Ritter  

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