Bach : Cantatas Vol 13

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LABELS: Soli Deo Gloria
WORKS: Cantatas Vol. 13: BWV 36, 61, 62, 70, 132 & 147
PERFORMER: Joanne Lunn, Brigitte Geller (soprano), William Towers, Michael Chance (alto), Jan Kobow (tenor), Dietrich Henschel (bass); The Monteverdi Choir; The English Baroque Soloists/ John Eliot Gardiner


The cantatas in Vol. 13 of John Eliot Gardiner’s Bach Pilgrimage series belong to the Advent season in the Church year. The recordings were made in Cologne and in Lüneburg where the teenage Bach sang treble in the town’s Michaeliskirche.

These half-dozen masterpieces offer as an alluring a conspectus of Bach’s sublime inspiration as I can think of. Gardiner and his musicians are on splendid form. The two settings of Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (BWV 61 and 62) belong to Weimar and Leipzig respectively. Both reveal Bach’s lively responses to the dramatic possibilities inherent in chorale fantasia, accompagnato, recitative and aria.

In BWV 61 bass Dietrich Henschel’s tenderly declaimed direct speech from Revelations, ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock’ is affecting, as is soprano Joanne Lunn’s beautifully paced and fervently imploring continuo aria. Tenor Jan Kobow and Henschel both excel in their arias in BWV 62 while Lunn and William Towers as witnesses of the Nativity bring a pleasing blend of intimacy and wonder to their accompagnato.

Among the obbligatists I especially enjoyed Michael Niesemann’s oboe d’amore playing (BWV 36 and 132), Maya Homburger’s limpidly expressive muted violin partnership with Lunn (BWV 36) and Gabriele Cassone’s trumpeting, sometimes joyful (BWV 147), sometimes portentous (BWV 70). The Monteverdi Choir, too, is on exhilarating form, especially in BWV 61, 62, 70 and 147 which contains the chorale ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’.


In these cantatas Gardiner steals a march on most of the competition, though I should not wish to be without Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s BWV 61 (Teldec-Warner) and Maurice André’s trumpet playing in BWV 70 (Erato-Warner). Nicholas Anderson