JS Bach: Cantatas Vol. 7: BWV 17, 19, 25, 50, 78, 130 & 149

LABELS: Soli Deo Gloria
WORKS: Cantatas Vol. 7: BWV 17, 19, 25, 50, 78, 130 & 149
PERFORMER: Malin Hartelius (soprano), Robin Tyson, Richard Wyn Roberts (countertenor), James Gilchrist (tenor), Peter Harvey (bass); The Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner
Bach’s music for the feast of St Michael and All Angels suggests that the colourful imagery of war in heaven, contained in the appointed Epistle from the Book of Revelations made particular appeal. Three cantatas and a confrontational eight-part chorus – a lone survivor from what was probably a fourth – testify to Bach’s fertile imagination when dealing with Satan, variously portrayed as a serpent or dragon. In these live recordings from his Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, John Eliot Gardiner and his musicians perform all four of the St Michael’s Feast Day pieces as well as three cantatas for the 14th Sunday after Trinity.


Gardiner’s responses to the splendid choruses contained in each of the St Michael’s Day cantatas underline with vigour and linear clarity the powerful affirmation of the Christian faith contained in the texts. Sometimes I felt that the warrior imagery took second place to elegant phraseology – too much Italian Renaissance and not enough German Baroque or of Milton’s ‘Powers Militant’ – but the complete picture which Gardiner offers us is convincing and rewarding. Among the many highlights for me are James Gilchrist’s limpidly sung tenor aria with flute obbligato in BWV130, the dramatically charged fugal opening chorus of BWV19, a veritable battlefield, and the alto-tenor duet with its serpentine bassoon obbligato of BWV149. But the celebrated duet from the Trinity cantata, BWV78 feels uncomfortably brisk. Nicholas Anderson