WORKS: Advent Cantatas: Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland I &II BWV 61 & 62; Schwingt freudig euch empor
PERFORMER: Nancy Argenta, Petra Lang, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Olaf Bär; Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner
CATALOGUE NO: 433 194-2 DDD
This latest disc in John Eliot Gardiner’s continuing survey of Bach cantatas puts together three works intended for Advent Sunday, all of which celebrate the new Church year. Largest in scale is No. 36: like the other two cantatas recorded here, it makes use of Luther’s hymn ‘Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland’, setting it as a severe duet for soprano and alto doubled by two cors anglais. The festive opening chorus of this work goes with an appropriate ‘swing’, and in all three pieces the orchestral playing is a model of refinement.
The Monteverdi Choir has little to do, but does it well, as ever. Among the soloists, Olaf Bär is outstanding: as Christ ‘knocking on the door’ (to the accompaniment of five-part pizzicato strings), in No. 61, he sounds suitably ethereal, and his superb diction helps characterise the powerful ‘Streite, siege, starker Held’ from No. 62. My only quibbles concern an occasional tendency among the other soloists to swallow the ends of phrases, and some rather wilful continuo playing which undermines Nancy Argenta’s beautiful account of her aria in No. 61. The recording is warm and clear. Stephen Maddock