J S Bach: Cantatas, BWV 12, 103, 108, 117, 146 & 166

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LABELS: Soli Deo Gloria
ALBUM TITLE: Bach Cantatas Vol. 24
WORKS: Cantatas, BWV 12, 103, 108, 117, 146 & 166
PERFORMER: Brigitte Geller (soprano), William Towers, Robin Tyson (alto), Mark Padmore, James Gilchrist (tenor), Julian Clarkson, Stephen Varcoe (bass); Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloist/John Eliot Gardiner
The recordings in Volume 24 of John Eliot Gardiner’s Bach Cantata Pilgrimage were made in Altenburg’s Schlosskirche and in St Mary’s Church, Warwick. These are of works which Bach performed during Easter festivals at Leipzig – all except for one, BWV 117, for which Bach did not designate a particular Sunday in the church year. Indeed, we cannot be certain that he ever performed it in the context of his regular Leipzig duties.


Gardiner’s deep personal commitment to Bach’s cantatas often allows us to share in a distinctive fervour, sometimes poignant, as in the grief-laden opening chorus of BWV 12, part of which was later to form the Crucifixus of the B minor Mass, sometimes exuberant, as we find in the opening choruses of BWV 103 and 117. This stamp of personality is too often lacking in rival performances by Ton Koopman on the one hand and, on the other, by Masaaki Suzuki whose interpretations, though mainly admirable, are sometimes expressively over-cautious. With their textural lucidity, crisp articulation, eloquent phrasing and lively feeling for dance rhythms, Gardiner’s performances enliven and refresh Bach’s music at almost every turn. The Monteverdi Choir is on cracking form here and there are strong contributions from solo voices and obbligato instruments alike. On the singing side, I especially enjoyed Julian Clarkson’s aria ‘Ich folge Christo nach’ (BWV 12), and William Towers’s ‘Kein Arzt’ (BWV 103). A splendid issue. Nicholas Anderson