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V 18: Bach Cantatas


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Amazon.com: 8 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
This is the record of John Dec 9 2010
By Jim D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This is the final release (though not the last numerically, and actually the first performed) in Sir John Eliot Gardiner's "pilgrimage" recording series of the Bach cantatas. All were performed live on or near the Sunday for which they were written, in one year's time. When his record company backed out of this massive project, Sir John--who had already committed to the performances--determined to release the cantatas on his own label. No corners were cut: full texts, essays by the conductor and other participants, beautiful packaging. The Christmas and Epiphany works in this set certainly made a festive opening to the pilgrimage. "Gloria in excelsis Deo" (BWV 191) also serves as the Gloria movement in the B-minor Mass. The soloists blend the famous with the lesser-known (I particularly like James Gilchrist's work on this set), and the chorus and orchestra toss off Bach's intricate counterpoint with assurance. Although Gardiner has done much good work, to pull off these concerts and recordings is a very special achievement.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
a voice teacher and early music fan Oct. 26 2010
By George Peabody - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
THE LAST HURRAH!

SDG 174, vol. 18, the much awaited last volume of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, is an anthology of the Christmas period, combining cantatas for Christmas Day and the Epiphany.

The Cantatas for Christmas Day BWV 63 and 191 were recorded 'live' in Weimar Dec.25,1999, with featured soloists: Claron McFadden, Bernarda Fink, Christoph Genz and Dietrich Henschel. BWV63 "Christen, atzet diesen,Tag" (Christians engrave this day) is one of Bach's best known cantatas. It is an enigmatic work containing none of the usual Nativity themes, though it is festive n nature featuring two imposing outer choruses and opulent instrumentation. BWV 191 "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" (Glory to God in the highest), the song of the angels at the birth of Jesus, is best known as the 'Gloria' in the B minor mass.

The Cantatas for the Feast of Epiphany BWV 65 and 123 were recorded 'live' in Leipzig Jan.6,2000, with featured soloists Magdalena Kozena, Sally Bruce-Payne, James Gilchrist and Peter Harvey. BWV 65 "Sie Werden aus Saba alle kommen" (All they from Sheba have come), describes the procession of the magi. Bach conveys the majesty of the scene by using high horns and the recorders and oboes da caccia to create an Eastern-like atmosphere. BWV 123 "Liebster Immanuel, Herzog der Frommen" (Dearest Immanuel, Lord of the righteous) opens with a graceful chorus, somewhat reminiscent of a dance from the court of Elizabeth I. The chorus's interjections form a proto-Romantic love song that tends to remain with the listener for some time.

The Cantatas for the Feast of Epiphany BWV 154, 124 and 32, recorded 'live' in Hamburg January 9, 2000, feature soloists Claron McFadden, Michael Chance, James Gilchrist and Peter Harvey. BWV 154 "Mein Liebster Jesus est verloren" (My dearest Jesus is lost); this cantata exhibits close connections with the Gospel reading(Luke 2: 41-52) that centers on the search for the twelve year old Jesus, eventually found in the temple in Jerusalem. The opening words of the title aria reveals the direction this cantata is taking as expressed in St.Luke, and who better than James Gilchrist to sing this exquisite tenor aria! Michael Chance in his splendidly rendered aria "Jesu, lass dich finden" (Jesus, let Thyself be found) takes us further into the story and Peter Harvey with his resonant engaging tone quality sings Jesus' famous response: "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" A stirring duet follows 'Happy am I, Jesus is found', which is magnificently rendered by Gilchrist and Chance. This cantata moved me greatly not only because of the words, but because of the excellence of the soloists' contributions.

BWV 124 "Meinem Jesum lass ich nicht" (I shall not forsake my Jesus), is also clearly associated with the previous Gospel of Luke, and begins with a chorale fantasia in which Bach opts for a gentle, almost simplistic tone in the voice to reflect the submissive character of the text: "I shall not forsake my Jesus since he gave his life for me". Only in the the middle movement, an aria for tenor and oboe d'amore and strings, does Bach unleash a torrent of dramatic effect to portray 'fear and terror' that accompanies death. Again we hear the expressive voice of tenor Gilchrist. Then follows a striking duet for soprano and alto and continuo constructed as a gigue with a joyful sense of abandon celebrating a release from all things worldly, the message of which is expertly communicated by McFadden and Chance.

BWV 32 "Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangan" (Beloved Jesus, my desire) is cast as a 'Concerto an Dialogo': a dialogue between the Christian soul (soprano) and Jesus (bass), well performed by McFadden and Harvey. The cantata ends with a brief Chorale.

SUNDAY TIMES, 10th of October, 2010: "The variety of this work for Christmas and Epiphany is astonishing, and the singing from the Monteverdi Choir and soloists including Magdalena Kozena, fully matches it."

THE OBSERVER: "This ongoing recording project ranks as one of the musical events of all time."

GRAMOPHONE: "One of the most ambitious musical projects of all time."
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
GOOD THINGS MUST (SADLY) COME TO AN END Nov. 3 2010
By GEORGE RANNIE - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This, what I think to be the twenty-seventh (27th) release (actually it's Volume 18) of John Eliot Gardner's (along with the Monteverdi Choir the English Soloists and various individual soloist) "Johann Sebastian Bach's Pilgrimage" to record all of said composer's known sacred Cantatas in the year 2000 at different venues (places of worship pertinent to the compositions on the discs), brings the journey to a close as far as the recorded legacy of the aforesaid parties. Volume 18 contains works composed by JS for Christmas day and for Epiphany along with Cantatas on the second disc that were composed for the first Sunday after Epiphany. Although this set of recordings certainly maintains Gardiner and his forces' high standards set in the earlier recordings of this journey, I listen to it with some sadness because "the Pilgrimage" has come to an end as all good things must. The very first release in 2005 was so good that it got me "hooked". Although, I promised my "significant other" that I would not get "launched" on yet another "complete" Bach cantata set of recordings, after listening to the very high quality of the first few recordings in this series, I reneged on my promise and continued to acquire recordings of this marvelous journey. Truly marvelous, it has been. So, here I am at the last release (Volume 18) and it's wonderful too.

Once again, John Elliot Gardiner, The Monteverdi Choir, The English Soloist along with various soloist have produced a wonderful recording. The music in Volume 18, is so joyful and beautiful plus being so joyfully and beautifully performed that it certainly succeeded in putting me into a "Holiday mood".
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Journey's end. Oct. 26 2010
By Teemacs - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
...and what a great journey it has been. A wonderful voyage of discovery through a corpus of music that is relatively unknown and which has so many gems. Paradoxically, this, the last release in the Pilgrimage Series, was the first to be recorded, in Weimar at Christmas 1999. As a result, part of it shares the all-star cast that featured in Gardiner's brilliant Christmas Oratorio DVD in the Herderkirche, Weimar, including the great soprano-alto duo of Claron McFadden and Bernarda Fink. The highlights here are the marvellous BWV63 "Christen, äztet diesen Tag" and BWV65 "Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen", but the others also receive great performances.

Did you ever think of Jesus as a groover? Just listen to the gorgeous duet "Nun verschwinden alle Plagen" in BWV 32 "Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen" of the soul and Jesus (respectively Magdalena Kozena and Peter Harvey), and if you can sit still and not tap your toes or sway along, have a friend check you for a pulse.

So (sniff) what am I going to buy now? The good news is that the missing stuff, such as BWV11 ("Lobet Gott in seinem Reichen" aka the Ascension Oratorio, numbered in the cantata sequence, but generally not regarded as one) will be recorded. Moreover, that corking Christmas Oratorio will appear on CD. Please join the queue (the one forming behind me).
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
COME TO THE DANCE Dec 23 2011
By DAVID BRYSON - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The text of one of the Christmas Day cantatas here actually says `Come to the dance' - kommt zum Reihen. To me it seems a very appropriate thing to say, as the Bach cantatas are a kind of dance of the cherubim and seraphim, the music of the angels of God. For newcomers, John Eliot Gardiner and his associates went on a `pilgrimage' in the year 2000, the 250th anniversary of the master's death, during which they performed all of them at a succession of different locations on the liturgical dates (so far as that is possible in different years) for which they were written. Christmas Day is obviously the same in as many years as you like, and I think that this may be the first inkling provided that the show got on the road just a week before its official year, with the cantatas for Christmas itself. This is the last of the 27-part series to be issued, it appears, it is obviously the first set of performances, so the reason why it has the sequence-number 18 must follow from those facts in some way.

The sequence of my own collecting is not such a truth above reason but ordinary basic numbering, and this is the 22nd of the series that I now own. My reviews of these have become repetitious, but I make no apology because what I have been repeating, with very rare exceptions, is an unqualified paean of praise. This is a simply magnificent project, not just for the vision and dedication needed to plan it and carry it through but for the sheer consistent excellence of the work at the individual level of the successive issues. This particular set makes a superb impression from the outset, with a particularly opulent sound deriving from the exceptionally large orchestral forces. The recorded quality is excellent, another characteristic of the whole series and one that must have tested the technical staff who had so many different venues to cope with. I have naturally been fascinated, after hearing so many later performances including the last of all, to listen to the inaugural effort. It is as good as any of them, and that is high praise indeed. All the performers, soloists chorus and instrumentalists, distinguish themselves, and the director's sense of conviction, stylistic grasp and feel for the greatness of the music plainly permeates what they all do.

There is one of the occasional `extras' this time, a set of texts from the Gloria of the Mass, given with the Christmas cantatas. The production itself is to the standard format, distinctive and distinguished, in a sort of book presentation. As always, there is one of Gardiner's lengthy, detailed and instructive `blogs'. Any amount can be learned from these, but if I may differ a little from the great man on this occasion I suggest that his immersion in the music has led him into praising Bach one step too far when he purports to find operatic talent. Bach turned away from opera, I say rather, because he had neither taste nor aptitude for it. His musical genius was indeed infinite, but not infinite in every sphere.

Another standard feature is a shorter essay by one of the participants, interestingly on this occasion one who has not apparently participated in the performances put on record here. Never mind, it is quality stuff as usual. I dare say that this notice comes rather late for a Christmas recommendation, but it is going to be a treasure in my own collection for as many Christmases as may remain to me.

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