Scholars Baroque Ensemble was founded in 1987 by David Van Asch
to complement the work of the existing a capella vocal ensemble
"The Scholars". Since then, they have received attention in their
collaborative effort with Naxos on a number of recordings, including
Bach's St. John's Passion and Monteverdi's 1610 Vespers;
all of which are performed with original or copies of such instruments.
Additionally, members of this group are all Baroque specialists.
The Scholars Baroque Ensemble performs music without a director.
This is interesting. Further, in this and their other recordings,
the works are given an all-soloist treatment, as in the Cantus
Cölln version directed by Konrad Junghänel.
few impurities are detected here and there throughout the recording.
The tenor entry in bar one of Jesu Meine Freude could do
with more cover, less nasal quality and very generally, a rounder
more consistent tone. Further, parts of the Singet dem Herrn
ein neues Lied where running notes abound are hampered by some
struggling heard in all the voice parts.
Left: Detail of a portrait of Bach with
the first son from his second marriage, Gottfried Heinrich. This
is one of three portraits thought to be authentic depictions of
throughout are neutral and very little imagination or liberty is
taken with the scores - though this could be the result of them
performing without a director. It should not have been a limiting
factor. Astute musicality would not have permitted an impassive
reading, nor a performance without significant colouring of the
voice parts in relation to the text.
most places, the Motets are given a smallish treatment - never quite
involving the listener enough, affecting the listener enough, or
emoting the listener enough. This comment has two notable exceptions,
Fürchte dich nicht is exciting from suddenly somewhere in
the middle when the words "ich starke dich, ich helfe dir auch..."
are sung. This excitement is sustained to the end of the motet;
some brilliant singing is also noted in Komm, Jesu, komm;
but this insight is not maintained.
recording has excellent sound quality, the placement of the voices
are very well done. These are excellent voices we are talking about.
The sopranos are admirable; though not quite as pure as trebles,
they are enjoyable voices. The countertenors would need to be a
little more ethereal, a little more gentle to bring out the flavour
in "So aber Christus in euch ist", after all the words "the spirit
is life" - "der Geist aber ist das Leben" - would benefit from a
spectral temperament. Tenors and basses are efficient and despite
the brighter, rougher tone, does not disrupt the performances. Notes
are short and an unsustained approach seems to be the intention.
Phrasing suffers a little from the broken legato lines, however,
the overall effect, intended or not, is more than acceptable.
Scholars Baroque Ensemble should seriously consider a more involved
approach and perhaps then achieve a more considered empathy with
this great music; with or without the help of a musical director
to concentrate solely on shaping the performance.
end, this recording makes an excellent recommendation for anyone
intending to have a copy of the Motets in their collection but is
not willing to pay full-price for one of the other
recommendations in this series of reviews. The technical merits
of this recording cannot be questioned. Nowhere do the Scholars
suffer from any intonation problems and with minor exceptions, ensemble
work is clean and effective. In this view, this recording is worth
believes that the few revered conductors past and present was/is
successful because they bring to music performance wisdom - wisdom
that is non-communicable save through the language of the universe
If you wish to
Add a Comment to this article, please email your comments to email@example.com.
30.8.1998 © NG Yeuk Fan
original texts are copyrighted. Please seek permission from the
if you wish to reproduce/quote Inkpot material.