Bach: Cantatas Vol 14 / Gardiner, English Baroque Soloists

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These days we have to be reminded that Easter, not Christmas, is the primary festival of the church year. (In Bach’s Leipzig, of course, Good Friday was the most important day of the musical year.) Nevertheless, Christmas was a major celebration at that time and place, with services on Christmas and the next two days, followed by observances on New Year’s day, the first Sunday of the New Year, and Epiphany. Consequently, Bach created considerable music for the season. The present disc, Volume 14 in the series, features two Christmas cantatas, BWV 91 (1724) and 110 (1725), and two cantatas for the day after Christmas, BWV 40 (1723) and 121 (1724).

Cantata 91, from the year of chorale cantatas, imbues Luther’s Christmas hymn, Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, with a feeling of anticipation and exhilaration unusual even for Bach. Budding excitement in the opening chorus finally erupts in striking syncopations. The final chorale is enhanced by fanfare-like expressions from the brass. Another chorale cantata is BWV 121, based on Christum wir sollen loben schon. It begins with a more subdued choral movement, but a joyful air is introduced by the subsequent tenor aria and reinforced by a jaunty aria for bass. Cantata 40 does not belong to the chorale-cantata cycle, but three of the seven movements after the opening chorale fantasia are straightforward chorale settings. Most resplendent of these four cantatas is No. 110, which opens with a choral re-make of the third movement of the Fourth Orchestral Suite.

Gardiner’s preface again reminds us that the Cantata Pilgrimage was not undertaken as a recording project; the recordings are fortuitous by-products of the Pilgrimage. The concert captured on this disc, which took place in New York City on Christmas Day, 2000, was the third-to-last in the whole enterprise. One might reasonably have excused any evidence of fatigue at that point, but there is none in evidence; rather, the energy generated by the performances is quite extraordinary. For listeners who wish to sample the series before committing themselves to it, this single disc may provide an auspicious starting point. Most enthusiastically recommended.

Incidentally, in reviewing earlier releases from the Pilgrimage, I noted the sterling attendance record of violist Colin Kitching. A letter from Clifford Bartlett of Early Music Review noted that Kitching is the Monteverdi Choir’s librarian. But, alas! He didn’t make it to the Big Apple, so Sir John will be the only person to have participated in every one of the Pilgrimage recordings.

FANFARE: George Chien


Product Description:


  • Catalog Number: SDG 113


  • UPC: 843183011322


  • Label: SDG


  • Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach


  • Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner


  • Orchestra/Ensemble: English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir


  • Performer: James Gilchrist, Joanne Lunn, Katherine Fuge, Peter Harvey, Robin Tyson, William Towers



Works:


  1. Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, BWV 91

    Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

    Ensemble: English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir

    Performer: Katherine Fuge (Soprano), James Gilchrist (Tenor), Peter Harvey (Bass), Robin Tyson (Alto)

    Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner


  2. Christum wir sollen loben schon, BWV 121

    Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

    Ensemble: English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir

    Performer: Katherine Fuge (Soprano), James Gilchrist (Tenor), Peter Harvey (Bass), William Towers (Countertenor)

    Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner


  3. Dazu ist erschienen der Sohn Gottes, BWV 40

    Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

    Ensemble: English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir

    Performer: James Gilchrist (Tenor), Peter Harvey (Bass), Robin Tyson (Alto)

    Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner


  4. Unser Mund sei voll Lachens, BWV 110

    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