JS Bach: Cantatas, Vol. 28 – 'The City of London'
Although John Eliot Gardiner performed Bach’s Ascension cantatas during his millennium ‘Cantata Pilgrimage’, they were never recorded. Thanks to public subscription, that omission was finally put right at St Giles’ Cripplegate last year, and this release plugs a gap in the project’s grand scheme.
The circle is closed with some of Bach’s most ebullient music. The opening of BWV 43 holds its cards close to its chest, until trumpets herald the entry of the chorus, robust here with typical Monteverdi Choir panache. What a swagger Gardiner brings to the beginning of BWV 37, and wonderfully fruity horns accompany the singing at the start of BWV 128.
The soloists don’t always achieve this kind of fervour, though. Lenneke Ruiten sounds fragile in BWV 43, but is appropriately airborne by the time of the Ascension Oratorio, where Andrew Tortise’s Evangelist seems unfazed by the spectacle of Christ being taken up into a cloud. His duet with the warmly expressive Meg Bragle in BWV 128, however, is particularly fetching, and Dietrich Henschel is commanding throughout. Best of all are the ebullient choruses that bookend the Oratorio, exhibiting Gardiner’s innate Bachian flair, and bringing to an end a celebratory journey that’s ultimately uplifting.