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Bach Cantatas - Gardiner or Suzuki

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Does anyone have any views about which is the 'better' set of Cantata recordings, Suzuki's or Gardiner's? I have several Bach recordings by each conductor, but not many Cantatas, so now seems like a good time to correct this.

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Get both - different approaches.

I prefer Suzuki, just.

I also enjoy Rilling's rather more old fashioned approach.

Just stream 'em from Tidal or Spotify etc - all are available from those sources so you can just choose which you fancy at the time.

(Jeez, I can't believe I typed that! - but streaming has revolutionised the way that I listen).

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Some issues from the Koopman set are well worth a listen as well. (Not sure if that's complete though). Though to be honest the ones I listen to most are either from the original Leonhard/Harnoncourt set (which I have complete on vinyl going back to my student days), or from the Dutch set from the Brilliant Classics Complete Bach box set (155 CDs and only a handful of duds!). Oh and my Rifkin recordings.

Personally I find both Suzuki and Gardiner a bit variable - spot on at times but at other times a bit perfunctory. Not that I have the whole set of either, I tend to buy recordings at random after one makes an impact on me, the Dutch one is the only complete cycle I have currently on CD alongside the Leonhard/Harnoncourt vinyl.

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... the ones I listen to most are either from the original Leonhard/Harnoncourt set ...

Ditto. Every Sunday. I have most of the Gardiner set, too, but they rarely get an outing.

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Some issues from the Koopman set are well worth a listen as well. (Not sure if that's complete though). Though to be honest the ones I listen to most are either from the original Leonhard/Harnoncourt set (which I have complete on vinyl going back to my student days), or from the Dutch set from the Brilliant Classics Complete Bach box set (155 CDs and only a handful of duds!). Oh and my Rifkin recordings.

Personally I find both Suzuki and Gardiner a bit variable - spot on at times but at other times a bit perfunctory. Not that I have the whole set of either, I tend to buy recordings at random after one makes an impact on me, the Dutch one is the only complete cycle I have currently on CD alongside the Leonhard/Harnoncourt vinyl.

Good to hear from you, Montesquieu, after a seemingly long absence. I take the points made here - by the aptly named Eisensch as well - about JEG being hit and miss and sometimes perfunctory. (Thanks to others who chipped in.) Nonetheless, I bought the Gardiner set as at his best he is superb. I also like the idea of performing the cantatas on the liturgical day for which they were written and as a sort of pilgrimage. Based on the JEG and Suzuki Passions and masses, I find Suzuki a little 'flat'; safe, yes, but often lacking the sense of drilling down into the text that one can get from Gardiner (I wonder if this is due to translation and understanding of trans-cultural concepts).I found that Spotify didn't have that many recordings of JEG or Suzuki available, so any decision is going to be random.

My task now is to rip the 56 discs to a USB HD and then listen to each cantata on, or as close to as I can to, the day of the liturgical calendar for which it was written. I also have a copy of Alfred Durr's classic updated study of the cantatas to accompany me.

It's interesting how you only feel 'ready' to tackle some types of music at set points in life. In my 30s it was Schubert lieder, which have stayed with me; in my 40s it was Wagner, which hasn't, and in my 50s it's Bach cantatas.

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... and then listen to each cantata on, or as close to as I can to, the day of the liturgical calendar for which it was written. I also have a copy of Alfred Durr's classic updated study of the cantatas to accompany me.

I'm sure you know this website, too. Here's a quick and easy list of the Cantatas according to the church year:

http://www.bach-cantatas.com/LCY/index.htm

and the weekly discussions can be interesting. The scores are there, too.

http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/index.htm

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Does anyone have any views about which is the 'better' set of Cantata recordings, Suzuki's or Gardiner's? I have several Bach recordings by each conductor, but not many Cantatas, so now seems like a good time to correct this.

I will defer to my seniors here. But all the same, having heard several Suzukis, I have to say they push my buttons

.

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Both are excellent. Suzuki is available in high res.

That sums it up nicely for me. You'll find that Suzuki is better in some cantatas than Gardiner, and vice versa - and of course such things are a matter of individual opinion. Even in parts of cantatas! For example, in BWV147 Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, to my ears Suzuki nails better the opening chorale, but Gardiner does better the famous chorale Jesu bleibet meine Freude (Jesu, joy of man's desiring), with perfectly sprung rhythms. Having what is essentially the best choir on the planet, apparently able to perform miracles on command, Gardiner tends sometimes to take excess advantage of this - his opening choral of BWV137 Lobet den Herrn (Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation) is taken far, far too fast and doesn't allow the music to breathe properly - one wonders whether the parking meter was running. Both do great jobs with some of the other greats, such as BWV140 Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (Sleepers, awake) and BWV80 Ein feste Burg (A mighty fortress is our God).

If I could, I'd buy the whole Suzuki set, but the price of the just-released set is twice that of Gardiner.

Someone mentioned Rilling. These are also great, and indeed some of my favourites are Rilling. I'd also mention the old Erato recordings of Fritz Werner. The series was called Les grandes cantates de J.S. Bach. It featured many of Erato's formidable stable of wind soloists, including Maurice André on trumpet.

Another set is the Leusink set, finished in a breakneck 15 months. Here the quality of singing and playing doesn't approach the consistently high levels of Gardiner and Suzuki, but it has its moments. But, it could be argued, this was close to what Bach would have heard, given that he often only has a week to write and rehearse a cantata before the Sunday service.

I confess that, while I admired their pioneering efforts, I never warmed to the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt cycle.

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Some issues from the Koopman set are well worth a listen as well. (Not sure if that's complete though).

Yes, it is. Koopman's situation was similar to Gardiner's, in that both were essentially dumped by their respective record labels (Erato and DG Archiv, respectively), and both continued their projects with private means.

Problem is, the Koopman set is wickedly expensive:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/J-S-Bach-Complete-Johann-Sebastian/dp/B002O0Q652/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1466168898&sr=1-1&keywords=bach+cantatas+koopman

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In addition to the wonderful recommendations already alluded to, might I also plead the case for the Rias Bach Cantatas project released on 9 cd's on the Audite label. Recorded between 1949 and 1952 under the baton of Karl Ristenpart. This is a very important release terribly well remastered and, whilst incomplete (29 cantatas), presents an important stage in the development of historically informed Bach performance.

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