was the first conductor to adopt Joshua Rifkin's controversial one-singer-per-part approach to Bach's "choral" music (other than Rifkin
himself, that is). This very reasonably priced reissue sees Parrott applying the approach to four of Bach's most popular sacred works. On the whole, Parrott and his ensemble make a good case for both one-per-part practice and their own performances. Once the ear adjusts, the balance is excellent: the vocal parts don't dominate the orchestra (as many listeners accustomed to a chorus expect); they are equal partners with it--which suits Bach's intricate and often dense writing for instruments and voices. In the Magnificat, however, good balance without good judgment isn't enough. Parrott rips through the piece so quickly that the singers have no time to do anything interesting with their parts. The Ascension Oratorio comes off better, with tempos that are brisk but not dizzying, as well as fine solos by Cable and Kirkby.
The Taverner Consort and Players really shine, however, in the Easter works. The opening Sinfonia of Christ lag in Todesbanden (taken surprisingly slowly) is breathtaking, as is the soprano-alto duet; the Sinfonia and opening chorus of the Easter Oratorio fairly rollick along, while Emily van Evera (sensitive and beguiling) and Caroline Trevor (athletic and almost giddy) do themselves proud in their arias, and tenor Charles Daniels, cushioned by flutes and strings, paints a magical picture of heavenly rest. If you just can't stomach the idea of Bach done by a madrigal consort (as some would have it), you'll do well with Ton Koopman or Philippe Herreweghe. But at such a reasonable price, these commendable performances are more than worth a try. --Matthew Westphal