I'd like to share with you a wonderful DVD I bought recently of J S Bach's Christmas Oratorio conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt. It's actually quite an old film from 1982 which has been transferred to DVD. The DVD itself therefore can only be played in 4:3 format and not widescreen, it's also worth noting that it's an NTSC disc. However the film is crisp and clear and there have been no problems with the transfer. The quality of the sound in the recording is also excellent.
Subtitles have been provided in German, English, French, Spanish and Chinese. It's worth noting that I played this film back on my 10.2 inch small screen portable DVD player and had no difficulty reading them. The disc format is Region 0 and should be playable on any DVD player worldwide.
The actual performance of the Weihnachtsoratorium (to give it the name Bach gave it) is given on this disc by Peter Schreier, Robert Holl, soloists of the Tolzer Knabenchor and the Tolzer Knabenchor, with the Concentus Musicus Wein orchestra. Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducts.
The recording takes place in the Collegiate Church at Waldhausen and the delightful introduction to the film shows the church in winter, snow falling and bells ringing for Christmas day. This is despite the fact that the actual recording was made during the summer and autumn in 1981. A wonderful Nativity scene by the sculptor Josef Stammel has been used as an illustration between each of the six cantatas which form the Christmas Oratorio.
The performance is on period instruments, and the top notch playing accompanying the singing is particularly good in this production. The musicians in the film (both singers and instrumentalists) are totally absorbed in the work they are performing, and you feel also that they are enjoying the whole experience. The singing is also excellent; Peter Schreier and Robert Holl are internationally known singers and Nikolaus Harnoncourt specialises in conducting early music. Some of the choirboys admittedly do have slightly breathy voices but they are trained in the continental style of singing which gives a richness to their tone sometimes lacking in that of choirboys from other countries. This makes their voices particularly suited to this music.
This is a disc that you will enjoy again and again and I cannot recommend it too highly.
If you would like to add this lovely DVD to your collection you might like to use this link to www.amazon.com.