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George Chien
Fanfare, November 2009

On October 3, 2008, to celebrate its 60th birthday and to mark the Day of German Unity, the RIAS (Rundfunk im amerikanischen Sektor) Kammerchor threw a party and invited the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin to come and play. One eventual result of this festive occasion is this DVD. For the occasion, Hans-Christoph Rademann, the current principal conductor, chose a program of five Bach motets, interspersed with instrumental movements from the cantatas. Like such fastidious conductors as Julian Podger and Matthias Jung, he skipped the authenticity-challenged BWV 230, but he also substituted another doubtful item for a legitimate one, BWV 229. Ich lasse dich nicht has been claimed for Johann Sebastian by Malcolm Boyd and others, but it is generally attributed to an older cousin, Johann Christoph. (Sebastian may have contributed its final chorale.) It is a lovely work, and as such never unwelcome when Bach’s motets are performed. The four instrumental movements are from Cantatas 146, 35, 188, and 169, and all feature the organ as protagonist. The venue for the concert was Berlin’s Gethsenanekiche, a fine late-19th-century structure that was packed to the rafters with a casually dressed but respectful, admiring, and, I must add, healthy audience.

The performances are fitting for such an event. Rademann’s interpretations are thoughtfully and subtly shaped. His conducting is short on flamboyance, but long in substance, always directing the audience’s attention to the source of the action. The chorus, divided, since most of Bach’s motets are for double choir, numbers 35 singers (with, for what it’s worth, no male altos). The choral singing is exemplary. The trio sections are sung by soloists drawn from the choir: Stephanie Petitlaurent (soprano), Waltraud Heinrich and Susanne Langner (altos), Volker Arndt and Christian Mücke (tenors), and Johannes D. Schendel (bass), all effective in their limited exposure. The Akademie, Berlin’s premier period-instrument ensemble, adds discreet colla parte coloring to the motets, but shines in the instrumental numbers.

The video presentation follows the normal format. Long shots alternate with close-ups; antiphonal passages are highlighted by camera movement; shots of the church’s interior and the audience provide visual variety. While this video would be a special memento for those in attendance at the concert, it should be as satisfying for general viewers as well.



Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, July 2009

A great and very festive concert is captured on this DVD, consisting of two of Bach’s most substantial motets of full cantata proportions: ‘Jesu, Meine Freude’, BWV 227 and ‘Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied’, BWV 228. Also included are 3 other, shorter motets, and an instrumental concerto and sinfonias from various cantatas. The forces arrayed here are the cream of the crop, nor do the soloists disappoint. Rademann’s conducting is a joy to behold: so spirited and deeply committed, he’s on the verge, it would seem, of singing it out himself! The acoustics of the Gethsemankirche in Berlin are ideally suited to the music, and the camera-work, while smooth and polished, but is somewhat repetitious.






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7:32:24 AM, 13 July 2014
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