JS Bach: Cantatas, Vol. 6 (Köthen/Frankfurt): BWV 33, BWV 35, BWV 69a, BWV 77, BWV 137, BWV 164

LABELS: Soli Deo Gloria
WORKS: Cantatas, Vol. 6 (Köthen/Frankfurt): BWV 33, BWV 35, BWV 69a, BWV 77, BWV 137, BWV 164


PERFORMER: Katharine Fuge, Gillian Keith (soprano), Robin Tyson, Nathalie Stutzmann (alto), Christoph Genz (tenor), Peter Harvey, Jonathan Brown (bass); Monteverdi Choir; The English Baroque Soloists/
John Eliot Gardiner

It’s little short of miraculous that, during their year-long pilgrimage, Gardiner and his forces could arrive at a new church, which was chosen for its historical significance rather than as a recording venue, rehearse, record and perform the surviving cantatas for that week within the church’s year, and move on elsewhere for the following week. The raw energy of such a schedule characterises the performances – rhythmic excitement, adrenalin pumping – but Gardiner is subtle too. He contrasts dazzling trumpets, drums and full wind, strings and chorus which open BWV 69a with solo voices singing the continuo-accompanied episodes. He argues convincingly for a chamber-sized organ as soloist in BWV 35. One startling decision was to bend the limited notes of a natural trumpet rather than use a slide-trumpet in BWV 77 – a hauntingly frail thread of sound in the fifth movement. Gardiner’s notes provide a heart-felt explanation of the allegorical symbolism in this special cantata.

The performances are outstanding throughout – Tyson’s tour de force of breath-control in the second aria of BWV 35; Harvey’s uninhibited gladness, ‘Freuden’, in BWV 69a; time standing still as, over pizzicato lower strings, the violin weaves its obbligato line round Stutzmann’s first aria of BWV 33; Keith endearingly matching oboes and bassoon in BWV 77. The choir is superbly athletic, for instance in the bounding cross-rhythms which

open BWV 137, and instrumentalists are well-nigh unblemished. Gardiner asks of the remarkable canon opening BWV 77: ‘How [could] an over-worked, jobbing church musician… have come up


with anything so prodigious?’ These performances do full justice to such genius. George Pratt