Friday, October 2, 2009

Windsbacher Knabenchor
There is a famous choir that I have neglected, so far.
Windsbach is a town in the district of Ansbach, in Bavaria, Germany. According to Wikipedia they are proud of two institutions, their high school, the Johann Sebastian Bach Gymnasium, and their renowned boys choir, Windsbacher Knabenchor. (Gymnasium, in German, is a secondary school for gifted students).

I’m sorry to say that I only have one of their CD’s but I‘m sure that more will arrive sometime in December. The one I have was recommended by a friend, Johann Sebastian Bach - Die Motetten.

I’ve complained before about the way boys’ voices are often overpowered by the adult voices and even by the orchestra. Here the young men sing beautifully, but it’s the trebles who are prominent all the way through. Plus the motets are a cappella so the boys’ voices are not hidden at all and the purity of their sound is wonderful.
I don’t know what to say about their singing except that it’s great. That’s not very poetic, I’m afraid.

The name Motet comes either from the Latin movere, ("to move") or a Latinized version of the French mot, “word”, (I love Wikipedia).
There are 6 motets on this CD and I’m not familiar with any of them, but they have names like Komm, Jesu, Komm; Jesu, Meine Freude and Furchte Dich Nicht, Ich Bin Bei Dir. I’m sure that true Bach fans know them well.

Apparently, Bach encountered a “miserable quality of singing” at St Thomas’ Church so the motets originally had musical accompaniment, but later the a cappella versions became favored.
According to their web site, “The Windsbach Boys Choir is one of the leading ensembles of its kind. Sacred music - spanning from the Renaissance to the present - forms the core of its repertoire. In addition to many a cappella pieces, the major oratorios of Bach, Handel, Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Stravinsky are its primary focus. Founded in 1946, the choir gives approximately seventy performances a year in Germany and abroad, reaching some 35,000 concertgoers.


  1. Of the 891 Bach CDs I own, this is still hands-down my very, very favourite--and you hit all the reasons why: the clarity, the technical precision, the prominence of the treble's a masterpiece. The Windsbachers can sing circles around any SATB group this side of the London Symphony Chorus.

    They're the "big Libera": they have the same tonal quality, only in larger numbers and tied more closely to the classical repertoire. If Robert Prizeman ever decided to "go classical" (and not 'transcribed' classical), I bet Libera would sound a lot like the Windsbachers.

    Their Mass in B minor is fine, too--but aside from a few big numbers, it's not a mass choral piece. Still waiting on a John Passion from them...

  2. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with saying simply, "The singing is great." Because it is. And if there are any "who'd like to know more," they can visit or iTunes, buy the CD, and realise on their own that, yes, the one thing we can say about this stuff is: "the singing is great indeed."

    Being able to unleash reams of academese about "why" the singing is so great is a bit like taking great pains to point out to your child all the mechanical cogs and springs and machinery behind the "Small World" ride in Disney Land...

    Felix Mendelssohn once said, "Music is not too vague for words--it is too precise."

  3. Thanks Kelsie, that's nice. And I like your Small World metaphor.