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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Mailbag: “Bach Cantatas”

April 27, 2006

Dear Michael,
I attended a wonderful Pipedreams Live program last week at Oberlin Conservatory in Oberlin, Ohio and thought the students did an amazing job.

Previously as an “organ buff” I guess I had never really paused to realize how special works such as the Bach Aria for Mezzo Soprano, Violin and Continuo Christi Glieder, ach bedenket (BWV 132) or Aria for Mezzo Soprano, Recorder, Cello and Continuo Leget euch dem Heiland unter (BWV 182) could be. I was truely amazed at how gentle the sweet sounding positiv/continuo organ was and how well it worked in the ensemble. It was a sound much more intimate than organs such as the big Flentrop. I’ve also heard other larger organs (small 2 manual size) with strings, etc. but never offering this unexplainable charm that I was drawn to that evening.

In the days following this recital, I tried to search for good recordings of works such as these (or others by Bach) using a sweet little continuo as part of the performance, but was not able to find much.

Can you recommend a source for finding these or other great works on CD or DVD?

Joseph McCabe
Cleveland, OH

Dear Joseph,
These days, pretty much every serious performer wishing to interpret Bach cantatas will use a ‘sweet little continuo organ’ to provide ensemble foundation and accompaniment. Several recent cycles of Bach Cantatas are available on CD, and any one of them should provide the sort of organ continuo sound (in ensemble) that you enjoyed during our Oberlin concert. I list them, with appropriate websites below, though all of this material should be available for sale at Amazon.Com (search for specific cantatas):

Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the Vienna Concentus Musicus (Teldec)

Ton Koopman and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra (Challenge Classics)

John Elliott Gardiner and the English Baroque Solists (Soli Deo Gloria)

Masaaki Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan (Bis Records)

Helmuth Rilling and various ensembles (Haenssler Classic)

Happy listening!



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