DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Christmas with J.S. BACH, Blu-ray (2013)

An audio and visual treat that celebrates the holiday with early music.

Published on December 3, 2013

Christmas with J.S. BACH, Blu-ray (2013)

Christmas with J.S. BACH, Blu-ray (2013) 

Program: Cantata BWV 61; Cantata BWV 63; Cantata BWV 248 I 
Performers: Barockorchester L’Arco/ Knabenchor Hannover cond. by Jörg Breiding/ Antonia Bourve sop./ Claudia Erdmann, alto/ Markus Schäfer, tenor/ Michael Jäckel, bass
Studio: EuroArts/Rondeau Productions ROP5103-BD [Dist. by Naxos] (10/29/13)
Video: 16:9 1080i HD
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Subtitles: German, English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean
Length: 89 minutes
Rating: ****

EuroArts has released a lovely Blu-ray of Bach Christmas music performed by the Knabenchoir of Hanover, and the Baroque Orchestra L’Arco conducted by Jörg Breiding. The works include Bach’s Cantata BWV 61 composed for the first day of Advent, his Cantata BWV 63 for Christmas Day, and the Cantata BWV 248 I for the first Day of Christmas. Cantata BWV 61 was performed for the first time in December 1714. The music portrays Christ’s entry into Jerusalem as told in the Gospel of Mark. The two remaining Christmas Cantatas reflect the differences between Cantata BWV 61 for Advent, and the spirit of Christmas day. About 20 years separate the compositions.

The concert is a small and intimate one, with about a hundred people attending in the beautiful Martkirche in Hanover. This disc is Christmas on a small scale with choir and a small ensemble of instruments. Everything about the performance and the location seems just right. The brick church is dramatically lit and the red bricks cast a warm glow over the orchestra and chorus. The ensemble plays with precision, and the soloists are excellent.The recording is really first rate, and appropriate to the location. The direction is not obtrusive, and though the camera moves throughout the performance, it is well-motivated by the tempo of the music.

I can easily hear the sound of the church in this 5.1 channel DTS Master Audio mix.If you are looking for the traditional holiday album with Silent Night and Jingle Bells, this is not a disc for you. But if you love Bach, and want an audio and visual treat that celebrates the holiday with early music this disc fills the bill very nicely.

—Mel Martin




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