Bach: Cantatas Vol 22 / Gardiner, English Baroque Soloists

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BACH Cantatas: No. 4; 1,3,4,5 No. 31; 1,4,5 No. 66; 3,4,5 No. 6; 2,3,4,5 No. 134; 3,4 No. 145 2,4,5 John Eliot Gardiner, cond; Gillian Keith (sop); 1 Angharad Gruffydd Jones (sop); 2 Daniel Taylor (ct); 3 James Gilchrist (ten); 4 Stephen Varcoe (bs); 5 Monteverdi Ch; English Baroque Soloists (period instruments) SOLI DEO GLORIA 128 (2 CDs: 120:39 Text and Translation)


This new installment, Volume 22, from Gardiner’s Bach Cantata Pilgrimage is devoted to the music of Easter Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Only two cantatas (plus the Easter Oratorio ) for each of these important festivals are extant. Surprisingly, only one of these six cantatas (No. 6) was conceived and composed in Leipzig. Three (Nos. 66, 134, and 145) were derived from secular cantatas written in Cöthen. No. 31 was brought to Leipzig from Weimar, and No. 4 from Mühlhausen.


From the first, Cantata No. 4, Christ lag in Todesbanden , effectively a set of chorale variations on Luther’s hymn, has been considered a special work, and, truth to tell, it is, if not my absolute favorite among the cantatas, certainly one of my top handful. Apparently it has a similar hold on Gardiner, who reckons that over his career he has performed it more often than any of the other cantatas. Gardiner assigns all of the vocal parts to the chorus, common practice a generation (or so) ago, but contrary to the current understanding that at least the duets and arias (verses 2, 3, 5, and 6) were intended for soloists. LPs by Shaw (RCA) and Prohaska (Bach Guild) were recorded without soloists, as was Gardiner’s first recording of this cantata (for Erato), now 25 years old. Richter (Archiv) modified that pattern by having Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau sing the bass aria. Chorus and soloists are combined in the integral sets by Harnoncourt, Rilling, Koopman, and Suzuki. One-to-a-part advocates Parrott (EMI) and the Purcell Quartet (Chandos) do away with the chorus altogether. Less controversially, Gardiner eschews the brass quartet that Bach added for the Leipzig revival of Christ lag. His highly charged performance is marked by extreme contrasts, both in tempos and in dynamics. Listeners accustomed to Apollonian restraint in this music may regard Gardiner’s dramatic interpretation as something approaching irrational exuberance. A measure of that enthusiasm is carried into Cantata 31, and the conductor’s characteristic energy, somewhat tempered, informs the balance of the program. Singers and players are, as we have come to expect, excellent.


Overall, the current offering is a worthy continuation of Gardiner’s project, but if Cantata No. 4 is your principal concern, I find either Suzuki or Koopman from their respective series more to my liking. (Incidentally, the Easter cantatas were recorded in St. George’s Church in Eisenach, where Bach was baptized.)


FANFARE: George Chien


Product Description:


  • Catalog Number: SDG 128


  • UPC: 843183012824


  • Label: SDG


  • Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach


  • Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner


  • Orchestra/Ensemble: English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir


  • Performer: Angharad Gruffydd Jones, Daniel Taylor, Gillian Keith, James Gilchrist, Stephen Varcoe



Works:


  1. Ich lebe, mein Herze, zu deinem Ergötzen, BWV 145

    Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

    Ensemble: English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir

    Performer: James Gilchrist (Tenor), Angharad Gruffydd Jones (Soprano), Gillian Keith (Soprano), Daniel Taylor (Countertenor), Stephen Varcoe (Bass)

    Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner


  2. Christ lag in Todesbanden, BWV 4

    Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

    Ensemble: English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir

    Performer: James Gilchrist (Tenor), Angharad Gruffydd Jones (Soprano), Gillian Keith (Soprano), Daniel Taylor (Countertenor), Stephen Varcoe (Bass)

    Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner


  3. Der Himmel lacht! die Erde jubilieret, BWV 31

    Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

    Ensemble: English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir

    Performer: James Gilchrist (Tenor), Angharad Gruffydd Jones (Soprano), Gillian Keith (Soprano), Daniel Taylor (Countertenor), Stephen Varcoe (Bass)

    Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner


  4. Erfreut euch, ihr Herzen, entweichet ihr Schmerzen, es lebet der Heiland, BWV 66

    Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

    Ensemble: English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir

    Performer: James Gilchrist (Tenor), Angharad Gruffydd Jones (Soprano), Gillian Keith (Soprano), Daniel Taylor (Countertenor), Stephen Varcoe (Bass)

    Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner


  5. Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden, BWV 6

    Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

    Ensemble: English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir

    Performer: James Gilchrist (Tenor), Angharad Gruffydd Jones (Soprano), Gillian Keith (Soprano), Daniel Taylor (Countertenor), Stephen Varcoe (Bass)

    Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner


  6. Ein Herz, das seinen Jesum lebend weiss, BWV 134

    Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

    Ensemble: English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir

    Performer: James Gilchrist (Tenor), Angharad Gruffydd Jones (Soprano), Gillian Keith (Soprano), Daniel Taylor (Countertenor), Stephen Varcoe (Bass)

    Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner