All indications are that this latest iteration of the hänssler CLASSIC Edition Bachakademie is a gussied up repackaging of the super budget version released in 2004 (and available at one time from Berkshire Record Outlet for just $199.99). The new packaging is an attractive up-grade over the earlier bare bones version but I do not know if that justifies the higher price point.
That said, it has been ten years since the hänssler/Rilling edition saw the light of day. At that time, the folks at hänssler and Warner were engaged in a war of words over whose "Complete Bach" was MOST complete. The hänssler/Rilling edition DID have more discs when completed - but this additional material, not presented in the Warner Bach 2000 consisted primarily of 12 discs of chorales. Lovely? Yes. A legitimate part of Bach's oeuvre? Yes. Yet 12 discs of hymn tunes was not a major incentive for this collector, at least.
Caveat lector! I personally prefer period instrument performances, and while boy sopranos and male falsettists may bother some listeners, the fact IS that this was the sound world that Bach dealt with; these were the musicians he wrote for. It is fighting the straw man to argue that had Bach ACCESS to female singers and modern orchestral instruments, he would have used them. To carry that line of reasoning to its logical extreme, Bach's music should simply just be performed on digital synthesizers.
At the heart of this massive collection are Bach's immortal works for the Lutheran Church - 60 discs of sacred cantatas and about 20 more worth or oratorios, Passions, Missae brevis (Lutheran masses, sans "Credo"), and a handful of smaller individual movements, all under the direction of Helmuth Rilling. Music history should rightly honor Rilling as the FIRST man to the top of the mountain. During the 1960s he was a God, performing obscure and long-forgotten and neglected works by Scheutz, the Bach family and Buxtehude. The recordings of the original Bach Edition were originally made between 1969-1985 and were integrally released in 1985 as part of the Bach Tercentenary. As is well known, Rilling always had the good fortune to work with superlative singers; the orchestras and ensembles are ready to take on most any challenge and the Gaechinger Kantorei deserve to be ranked among the world's great choral ensembles - if only for having learned and performed so much music so beautifully. And yet, in the 30 - 40 years since originally recorded, much has changed. The recordings could certainly do with a little digital remastering (some are extremely bright, while others are rather colorless...). Additionally, Bach scholarship has advanced and some of Rilling's interpretative choices have been superseded by later generations. Still in all, if your taste is for Bach on MODERN instruments, performed at lightening fast speeds - this IS the set you will want.
The organ works are uniformly were played and documented, though their arrangement into "thematic" collections (i.e. "New Ideas in Weimar", "Influences of Cantata, Concerto & Chamber Music", "Not a Note from Bach?" etc.) make it a bit of challenge to find the piece you are looking for.
The recordings of the keyboard works fortunately are fortunately organized by form, collection and idiom and there are some truly wonderful performances. Pinnock's Partitas are outstanding. Robert Levin does a fine job with the English Suites, though his WTC is an odd-ball affair, using at it does an assemblage of harpsichords, chamber organs, clavichords, etc. An interesting concept... and probably worth hearing for that alone. Among the real treasures to discover are the performances of Robert Hill on the Lute-Harpsichord (Lautenwerk). Bach apparently had a sweet-tooth for this hybrid harpsichord and owned a pair himself. Hill performs several works believed to have been written for this instrument as well as a fascinating collection of transcriptions (not all by Bach). Of the recordings that have not aged so well are those by Koroliov. His 2-disc "Golderg" Variations is probably one of the SLOWEST on record. His readings of the French Ouverture/Italian Concerto paring is spare and his Inventions & Sinfonias is fussy. For the last, I would have welcomed another performance from Robert Levin.
As for the chamber music, the two large solo collections (Sonatas and Partitas for Violn/Suites for Cello) are given fine, modern instrument performances by Dmitri Sitkovetsky (who later returns for the Violin Sonatas with keyboard) and Boris Pergamenschikow. The flute sonatas (together with a handful of Trio Sonatas) receive one of the more idiosyncratic treatments in the collection: Jean-Claude Gérard performs on a modern flute, while his continuo partners perform variously on bassoon, cello, harpsichord and Fortepiano. The Three Sonatas for Viola da Gamba are lovingly performed by Hille Perl - though without any companion works on the program, the CD's playing time is just about 38 minutes! Of all the chamber works in this monumental collection, the Musical Offering received one of the finest recordings on disc. Also included on the program are a fascinating set of Canons.
The epic journey ends with the orchestral and concertante works. These are all uniformly acceptable, modern instrument performances. Nothing objectionable and Rilling keeps the tempos brisk.
In summary, the entire collection really hangs on Helmuth Rilling's vision of Bach's works. Either you like his big, plumy choral sound with modern instruments or you don't. He used to be the only game in town but now there are an increasing number of alternatives, at least for the cantatas - Nikolaus Harnoncourt & Gustav Leonhardt on Teldec, Pieter Jan Leusink on Brilliant Classics, Ton Koopman on Antoine Marchand, Masaaki Suzuki on BIS and John Eliot Gardiner on the Soli Deo Gloria label.