Bach: Cantatas Vol 10 / Gardiner, English Baroque Soloists

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Volume 10 of the Cantata Pilgrimage series features the programs given in Potsdam and Wittenberg on the 29th and 31st of October, respectively. The first disc is devoted to three cantatas for the 19th Sunday after Trinity with BWV 90 (for Trinity 25) tossed in for good measure, while the second appropriately contains Bach’s two great Reformation Day cantatas (Nos. 79 and 80), separated by the brief, lively, and possibly incomplete No. 192. The three Trinity 19 cantatas are altogether more solemn, or at least begin that way. Coming a third of the year after the last major festival, these cantatas are concerned more with reassurance than exultation, and each concludes with a positive affirmation, and in the case of BWV 5, a triumphant one. Best known of the three, by far, is Cantata 56, for bass. Here divorced from its customarily joined-at-the-hip partner, BWV 82, it confirms its status as one of the elite cantatas. The inclusion of No. 92 is a happy solution to a number of dilemmas. The year of the Pilgrimage did not have enough Sundays after Trinity to accommodate it; it fills out what might otherwise have been a short program, and it is a vigorous and effective foil for its more introspective discmates.

Again, the performances are superb. Personnel for the two concerts are consistent, apart from the addition of flutes, horns, timpani, and a bass sackbut for the second evening. The choir is made up of seven (count them) sopranos, one female and three male altos, four tenors, and three basses, without detectable loss of responsiveness and flexibility, and the solo quartet acquits itself admirably. Harvey’s BWV 56 is outstanding. Lunn and Towers, incidentally, pull double duty, singing in the choir as well as offering their solos.

As expected, Gardiner uses the original scoring––without Wilhelm Friedemann’s high trumpets––in Ein feste Burg (Cantata 80). Obviously it’s an (perhaps the) appropriate choice, but it set me to wondering about what seems to be an obsession among the period-practice set with composers’ first thoughts––their need to find the earliest version of any score, as if the original inspiration is automatically diminished by any subsequent modifications. We know that Bach’s music was nearly always created under the most intense pressure, and that he was constantly tinkering with it, usually out of necessity, but, who knows, perhaps out of conviction. I know that I, operating at a much lower level of inspiration, am continually tweaking whatever I happen to be working on. Recording artists, especially in the classical field, if they are successful enough, revisit music that they have already committed to disc. First thoughts are not invariably best. That’s why there are erasers on pencils and an Undo button on the Word toolbar. We’ll never know, of course, but isn’t it possible that Bach might have mentioned casually to his son that he wished he’d put some trumpets in that music he wrote for Reformation Sunday? Well, no matter. In fact, Gardiner does have a sonic surprise for us in Cantata 80, an unexpectedly prominent bass sackbut. And why not? The production is, as anticipated, exemplary. Most enthusiastically recommended.

FANFARE: George Chien


Product Description:


  • Catalog Number: SDG 110


  • UPC: 843183011025


  • Label: SDG


  • Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach


  • Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner


  • Orchestra/Ensemble: English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir


  • Performer: James Gilchrist, Joanne Lunn, Peter Harvey, William Towers



Works:


  1. Wo soll ich fliehen hin?, BWV 5

    Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

    Ensemble: English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir

    Performer: James Gilchrist (Tenor), Peter Harvey (Bass), Joanne Lunn (Soprano), William Towers (Countertenor)

    Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner


  2. Ich elender Mensch, wer wird mich erlösen vom Leibe dieses Todes, BWV 48

    Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

    Ensemble: English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir

    Performer: James Gilchrist (Tenor), Peter Harvey (Bass), Joanne Lunn (Soprano), William Towers (Countertenor)

    Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner


  3. Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen, BWV 56

    Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

    Ensemble: English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir

    Performer: James Gilchrist (Tenor), Peter Harvey (Bass), Joanne Lunn (Soprano), William Towers (Countertenor)

    Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner


  4. Gott, der Herr, ist Sonn und Schild, BWV 79

    Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

    Ensemble: English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir

    Performer: James Gilchrist (Tenor), Peter Harvey (Bass), Joanne Lunn (Soprano), William Towers (Countertenor)

    Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner


  5. Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, BWV 80

    Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

    Ensemble: English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir

    Performer: James Gilchrist (Tenor), Peter Harvey (Bass), Joanne Lunn (Soprano), William Towers (Countertenor)

    Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner


  6. Es reisset euch ein schrecklich Ende, ihr sündlichen verächter, hin, BWV 90

    Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

    Ensemble: English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir

    Performer: James Gilchrist (Tenor), Peter Harvey (Bass), Joanne Lunn (Soprano), William Towers (Countertenor)

    Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner


  7. Nun danket alle Gott, BWV 192

    Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

    Ensemble: English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir

    Performer: James Gilchrist (Tenor), Peter Harvey (Bass), Joanne Lunn (Soprano), William Towers (Countertenor)

    Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner