on August 13, 2011
Helmut Rilling was the first to record all the Bach cantatas. He didn't start out with that intention, but that's what eventually happened, over a period of about 20 years. Rilling used women's voices and modern instruments, but it has always been my view that this is music for eternity and it should not be shoved in a musical straitjacket, to be played THIS way, but not THAT way. In any case, women's voices are probably a better approximation to what Bach would have had than modern boys' voices - boys' voices broke much later in those days, and that sound is forever lost to us.
The best known of these cantatas is BWV29, with its opening sinfonia and then the chorale which was to become the great concluding chorale of the B Minor Mass. The year-end cantata BWV28 has an opening aria that must have required a top-notch boy soprano. Here it is played quite more slowly than is normally the case, but it sounds fine (and is well sung). And Rilling really makes the alto-tenor duet dance. All good stuff.
I have the complete Rilling cantata set. It comes up cheaply every now and then. Worth getting.
P.S. The complete set will be released in September 2011 at a bargain-basement price.