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Artist: Gustav Leonhardt, Nikolaus Harnoncourt
There are certain musical monuments to Western civilization that no music lover should be without, at least in part. These include Haydn's symphonies and string quartets, Mozart's piano concertos, Handel's oratorios, Beethoven's string quartets and piano sonatas, Scarlatti's keyboard sonatas, and this, perhaps the biggest monument of all, the Bach sacred cantatas. About 200 of them survive and at least 100 are lost. All of them consist of a series of arias, choruses, and hymns based on sacred texts. Bach had to compose a new one every week for several years, and what makes the music so amazing is not only its quantity, but its sheer quality. There is literally no such thing as "bad" Bach, and this series of performances not only stands as one of the great achievements in the history of recording, it introduced many listeners to the fascinating sound of "authentic instruments." Is this set too much of a good thing? Nah! --David Hurwitz
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