Previously begun on Erato, Koopman's cantata cycle was taken over and completed in 2007 on Challenge Classics. It now looks set to surpass the famous Leonhardt-Harnoncourt set on Teldec (and indeed most of his other competitors).
Koopman favours an intimate approach to the choruses - namely one voice to a part. Also, he opts for females soloists rather than boys, as would have been the case in Bach's day, and he favours mixed rather than solely male choirs. For many this will be a plus point, and it is good news for fans of Barbara Schlick. He goes for slightly higher than normal pitch - a semi-tone above present day pitch, which, as Christopher Wolff's notes point out, is what Bach used in Mühlhausen and Weimar, brightening the sonority quite a lot.
The singing in virtually all the cantatas is pretty impressive and the instrumental playing is of a very high order.
"Koopman's directing vitality keeps the music spontaneously alive, with no sense of over-refinement or scholarly rectitude; the recording is first class, and the documentation could hardly be more informative. In short, this is a more enjoyable and rewarding seriesthat will give much satisfaction" - Penguin Guide to Recorded Classical Music, 2008.
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He enriched established German styles through his skill in counterpoint, harmonic and motivic organisation, and the adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France. Bach's compositions include the Brandenburg Concertos, the Goldberg Variations, the Mass in B minor, two Passions, and hundreds of cantatas. His music is revered for its technical command, artistic beauty, and intellectual depth.
Bach's abilities as an organist were highly respected during his lifetime, although he was not widely recognised as a great composer until a revival of interest in and performances of his music in the first half of the 19th century. He is now generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time.