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Monteverdi Choir performs Bach

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

JS Bach
Mass in F; Cantata: Süsser Trost, mein Jesus kömmt, BWV 151; Magnificat in E flat
Hannah Morrison, Angela Hicks, Charlotte Ashley (soprano), Reginald Mobley (alto), Hugo Hymas (tenor), Gianluca Buratto, Jake Muffett (bass); Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner
Soli Deo Gloria SDG728

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Recorded straight after the Monteverdi Choir’s European tour in 2016 celebrating Christmas in JS Bach’s Leipzig, this festive programme irons out many of the misgivings commentators had of the live performances. In the acoustics of St Jude’s, Hampstead, Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s step-out soloists are consistently strong, and their varied contributions mirror the alluring array of affects achieved by the ensemble as a whole.

The momentum, clarity of texture and incisive lines of the Mass in F establishes the assured tone of the programme, before Cantata, BWV 151, Süsser Trost, reveals an intimate vision of Mary through the eyes of Bach. The adoring mother, also a jubilant woman hitching her skirts to dance, is exquisitely portrayed in flautist Rachel Beckett and soprano Angela Hicks’s extraordinary blend and stylish turns of phrase.

The Magnificat in E flat is a sparkling, action-packed affair – especially with seamlessly-added laudes (songs of praise), and proves a fascinating comparison with its later, better known, incarnation in D major. Out of context, ‘Omnes generationes’ and ‘Fecit potentiam’ verge on a race; however in situ, with astonishingly fine trumpet playing, they provide an element of risky exuberance and high drama, sharply contrasting the surrounding movements. Soprano Hannah Morrison’s ‘Quia Respexit’ unfolds with gleaming repose and alto Reginald Mobley’s ‘Esurientes’ encapsulates whimsical pathos, while bass Gianluca Buratto’s puffed up ‘Quia Fecit’ turns on a dime to soften and declare ‘Holy is his name’.

An accompanying, lengthy interview with Jonathan Freeman- Attwood in the booklet notes provides an insightful view into Gardiner’s personal take on the project.

Read more reviews of the latest John Eliot Gardiner recordings

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Hannah French