Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Helmuth Rilling Personal Selection: Indeed the best of the best
10 CD Set
Conductor Helmuth Rilling has enjoyed a long and productive relationship with the Hänssler Classic. To celebrate Rilling's 70th birthday, Hänssler released this 10-CD set, Rilling's hand-picked favorites from the over 240 recordings he's made with the label. With that much material to choose from, it's safe to say this set is indeed the best of the best.
Rilling is perhaps best known for his traversal of Johann Sebastian Bach cantatas and oratorios. That cycle is well-represented in this collection. In addition to the St. John Passion and the "Peasant" Cantata, there are also some shorter works by Bach in the set.
Rilling takes a straight-forward approach to Bach. He tends to keep things moving briskly along, with tight, clean ensembles that make the counterpoint easy to follow. Rilling lets the music speak for itself, and in these recordings, it has a lot to say.
That same type of unadorned, no-nonsense direction is equally effective in Rilling's recording of the War Requiem by Benjamin Britten.
The collection includes many works by romantic masters, and Rilling adjusts his style appropriately. César Franck's Les Béatitudes shimmers with a soft glow. Rilling lingers lovingly over each beautiful turn of phrase in Schubert's Gesang der Geister. His performance of Bruckner's Te Deum is emotive, with just the right amount of gravitas and portent.
Also featured in the collection is Haydn's Harmoniemess in B-flat. Rilling's precise interpretation captures the classical era's ideal: the perfect balance between form and emotion. Mendelssohns' Heimkerh aus der Fremde is full of good humor. The work was written for private performance (to celebrate an anniversary), and Rilling maintains a light hearted and casual mood throughout this seldom-heard work.
Hänssler's crystal-clear recording techniques perfectly match the style of this remarkable conductor. If you're not familiar with Helmuth Rilling, this collection is an excellent place to start. It spans a good portion of his time with Hänssler, and shows a remarkable consistency of quality throughout.