JS Bach: Cantatas, BWV 5, 48, 56, 79, 80, 90 & 192

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LABELS: Soli Deo Gloria
ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach Cantatas
WORKS: Cantatas, BWV 5, 48, 56, 79, 80, 90 & 192
PERFORMER: Joanne Lunn (soprano), William Towers (alto), James Gilchrist (tenor), Peter Harvey (bass); Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner
Collectors of John Eliot Gardiner’s Bach Cantata Pilgrimage series will know that the two-CD albums are being issued out of sequence. This is Volume 10 but only the fourth release, so far. It contains three cantatas for the Feast of the Reformation, aptly described by one commentator as a celebration of earthly victories in the cause of national religion, and four for the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity.


It is Gardiner’s lively and articulate responses to Bach’s dance rhythms which refresh and enliven the music, often in a quite distinctive way. Particularly gratifying instances of these strengths may be felt in the B minor duet for soprano and bass from BWV 79 and in the joyful concluding chorus of BWV 192. It’s a gigue in all but name, and Gardiner captures its insouciant charm with unbridled esprit. The mighty fugal chorus of Ein Feste Burg (BWV 80) comes off splendidly, with Bach’s quotation of the hymn melody in the uppermost and lowest strands of the score emerging from the full textures with forceful energy.


The best-known of the Trinity cantatas here is Ich will den Kreuzstab (BWV 56) for bass solo. Peter Harvey does justice to the piece and his reflective approach to the opening aria, so often blustery and rhetorically empty in competing versions is rewarding. But rival recordings are plentiful and some readers may prefer the stronger declamation of Barry McDaniel (Erato/Warner) or Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in his earliest version of the piece (Archive ‘The Originals’). Other solo contributions, vocal and instrumental are mainly satisfying, James Gilchrist’s aria in BWV 5 and his duet with William Towers in BWV 80 deserving special mention. Nicholas Anderson