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V 13: Bach Cantatas


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Amazon.com: 6 reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
a voice teacher and early music fan Jan. 26 2010
By George Peabody - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
SOLI DEO GLORIA: TO THE GLORY OF GOD ALONE!
(The label SDG takes its trademark name from the initials that Bach wrote on the manuscript of each of his cantatas.)

John Eliot Gardiner's millennial, Europe-wide Bach Pilgrimage was just a year, but the release of the performances on CD is not yet complete. Volume 13, performed in Dec. 2000, celebrates Advent in the reverberant churches of Luneberg (where Bach sang in the choir) and Cologne, includes six cantatas for the first and fourth Sundays of Advent, the best known of them being BWV 147: 'Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben' (Heart and mouth and deed and life).

CD i includes BWV 61, 62 and 36. All three of these Advent Cantatas display a sense of excitement at the onset of the Advent Season. This is a time of anticipation and waiting, and an opportunity for all to turn away from self-absorbed feelings of guilt, fear, damnation and hellfire that dominated the final Sunday of the Trinity Season.

Two settings of 'Nun Komm der Heiden Heiland' (Come now Saviour of the Gentiles)BWV 61 & 62 from Weimar in 1714 and Leipzig in 1714 exist and both are herein recorded. They anticipate the arrival of Christ in music of avenging angels, hellfire and fury. Prettiness comes later at the end of CD 2 with BWV 147, with the cradle-rocking, chorale-setting 'Jesus Bleibet meine Freude' (Jesus remains my Joy).

BWV 62 'Nun Komm der Heiden Heiland II' gives us a sense of a new beginning which is summed up in the radiantly calm soprano & alto duet 'Wir ehren diese Herlichtkeit' (We honor this glory). sung skillfully and smoothly by soprano Joanne Lunn and alto William Towers. In the earlier version of 'Nun Komm der Heiden Heiland I' the successive stages of Advent, the different perspectives, are most clearly marked.

CD 1 concludes with BWV 36 'Schwingt freidig euch empor' (Soar joyfully aloft), a two-part large scale work; the first part would have been performed before the sermon, the second afterwards. It ends with a joyous chorus befitting the season and Gardiner describes it as a spiritual madrigal - capricious, light-textured and deeply satisfying sung melliflously by the Monteverdi Choir.

CD 2 begins with BWV 70 'Wachet! Betet! Betet! Wachet!' (Watch, Pray, Pray, Watch), performed in the musical form in which Bach's Cantatas have survived- the expansion that Bach made for performance in Leipzig in Nov. 1723, of this shorter six-movement Advent piece (composed seven years earlier in Weimar), contains only three surviving upper parts. Part One of this includes a lovely alto solo 'Wenn Kommt der Tag, an dem wir Ziehen' (When will the day come when we leave) sung expertly by Michael Chance. Dietrich Henschel, bass, astounded me with his vocal flexibility, especially in his aria 'Seligster Erquickungstag' (Most blessed reviving day).

We next hear one of Bach's earliest Cantatas, BWV 132 'Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn' (Prepare the ways, prepare the path), the title being the name of the opening aria sung very well indeed by soprano Brigitte Geller. This cantata is an intimate work scored for four voices, oboe, bassoon, strings and continuo.

The STAR of these two Discs is definitely BWV 147 (which accounts for its being recorded numerous times, some good and some not so good) 'Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben'. It is the best known reworking of an earlier Weimar Cantata. The pre-Christmas excitement is captured in the glorious opening chorus. However, the most familiar solo in this work has to be the exquisite alto aria 'Schame dich, o Seele, nicht' (Be not ashamed oh soul). And we are indeed fortunate to have Michael Chance perform it; the Master Bach Interpreter!

Gardiner's responsiveness gets consistantly under the surface of the music, whether its the cautionary agitation of BWV 70 or the fluid consolation of the closing chords of BWV 147. The soloists are some of the best I have heard on these volumes; they are all skilled, experienced and sing with much fervency and expression. CD1: J. Lunn, W. Towers, Jan Kobow and D.Henschel; on CD 2 we have B.Geller, M.Chance, the other two are on both.

AND FROM GRAMOPHONE: "Once again, Gardiner's Monteverdi Choir is the jewel on the crown of each cantata performance. Add to that Gardiner's electric response to music he clearly loves and you have a set that rivals his Gramophone record of the year Award-Winning disc that launched this amazing series."

Unquestionably these two CDs display the heavenly simplicity of vocal and instrumental artistry as the performers deliver heartfelt and polished performances proving their devotion to Bach. Volume 13 won France's coveted Diapason De L'Anne Award.

These are two mid-priced CDs beautifully packaged with all pertinent information including the text.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The one you've all been waiting for... Jan. 27 2010
By Teemacs - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
..well, OK, the one I've been waiting for, the Advent cantatas, above all the brilliant BWV147 "Herz und Mund Und Tat und Leben", the one with the bit of Bach that everyone knows, "Jesu, joy of man's desiring", made famous by Dame Myra Hess's piano transcription. The previous Gardiner BWV147, released as part of the 12-CD Archiv Pilgrimage series, is in fact a studio recording made in the early 1990s. This SDG one surpasses it in every way. The soloists are great, as is Gabriele Cassone on the magic trumpet in the opening chorale and the aria "Ich will von Jesus Wundern sprechen", and the two instances of the marvellous lilting 9/8 "Jesu joy" music are beautifully done, at what seems to my ears to be a perfectly judged pace, not too fast, but also not too slow.

(It would be remiss to leave it there without mentioning the competition. Suzuki's BWV147 is also outstanding. Which one is better? Both are great, one bettering the other in different movements. For example, Suzuki's opening chorale is the best I've heard anywhere, but Gardiner's "Jesu joy" is the better. So, I declare a draw and I have to have both.)

The others are great - BWV70 "Wachet! Betet!" gets a stunning performance, as do the two cantatas "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland" (BWV61 and 62) and BWV36 "Schwingt freudig euch empor".

You owe it to yourself to buy this set.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Greatness in Recordings is Rare: Gardiners' Pilgrimage Achieves It Dec 19 2010
By I. Martinez-Ybor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
If one has to give an extra-special Christmas gift, I strongly recommend, as I have, at various times here, the complete set of Bach Cantatas recorded at performances throughout Europe, and ending at St. Bartholomew's in New York (that odd faux-byzantine episcopalian contraption on Park Avenue two blocks up from my old office) each on its appropriate sunday, by John Eliot Gardiner, the Monteverdi Choir, Bach Soloists, and a batch of wonderful solo vocalists including Magdalena Kozena, Mark Padmore, James Gilchrist, Nathalie Stutzman, Robin Tyson, Katherine Fuge, Peter Harvey, etc. If means demand slower acquisition, then this volume can prove to be as good a starting point as any. The final album on the set was issued this year. Going through the whole set has been the most rewarding musical experience I have had in many a year. The wealth of inspiration and inventiveness Bach displays in this music is unmatched by any other composer (in my world Bach is god). Throughout my life I have dipped into the various collections of Bach cantatas beginning with the pioneering Harnoncourt/Leonhardt collection, Suzuki, Ton Koopman, Richter, Gonnenwein, but as individual performances and overall, I think John Eliot Gardiner captures the beauty, liveliness, gravitas, virtuosity, drama, and devotion in the music in ways others did not realize was present. The clarity with which these live performances have been captured is astonishing. This is no mere technical feet as it allows the listener to fully appreciate the full interplay between voice and instruments, at times how individual melodic lines are passed from a woodwind to a countertenor, for example, and how a solo violin decorates or provides descant to a vocal line. Beauty reigns. The recordings are issued in the Monteverdi Choir's own label SDG(Soli Deo Gloria) in 27 volumes, most containing two cd's, less than a handful, one. The whole set may be purchased as a unit or by individual units. There are years of transcendental music listening here. Do not be confused by the otherwise fine performances Gardiner recorded with DG/Arkiv..... you want those on SDG.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
ADVENT CALENDAR March 19 2012
By DAVID BRYSON - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
John Eliot Gardiner finds reason to believe that Bach attached exceptional significance to Advent Sunday, sc the first Sunday of the liturgical season leading up to Christmas. Without risking rash guesswork I infer that this exceptional significance must come from its being Advent rather than just from its being first in a cycle, so the second disc of this 2-part set, devoted to the 4th Sunday of Advent, must be more or less equally important. It certainly is as far as I am concerned, but only because the music is equally good. The maestro has stopped talking about exceptional significance by the time we reach the second disc, and I have not managed to be clear in my own mind why the first was so exceptional. Gardiner rightly points out how good the music on it is, but you could say as much about any of the 27 volumes of this great `pilgrimage' series. Sublime music is the norm in the Bach cantatas, not something exceptional. Further intellectual effort is required if one wishes to disentangle the 4th Sunday of Advent from the 26th Sunday after Trinity and the feast of the Visitation, so I have decided to assign the solution of that riddle to the category of revealed truths that are above reason and turn instead to what interests me, namely the music and its performance and recording.

Now that all the 27 parts of the pilgrimage have been issued, the format is probably fairly familiar. Over the year 2000 Gardiner and his associates traversed Europe, and even reached America at the end, performing the extant Bach cantatas on the liturgical dates (with variations due to different dates of Easter) for which they had been written. The scale of the undertaking hardly needs emphasising, and although the magnitude of the achievement is downright amazing it is only what the stature of the music demands. We know from contributions to the `diary' of the pilgrimage from the performers that they were often learning the music from scratch before they had to perform and record it less than a week later, and I can only suppose that they were kept inspired by the thought that Bach had had just as little time to compose and rehearse the works in the first place.

Whatever the truth of that, there has hardly been a weakness throughout as much of the undertaking as my collection now contains, and that is 25 sets of the 27. As I keep having to say in reviewing the successive issues, everyone's work is admirable, be it the solo or choral singers, the instrumentalists, the director himself or the recording technicians who have had to keep adapting to a bewildering succession of new acoustical conditions as the caravan moves on from place to place. Now knowing 25 volumes I ought to be able to generalise and say that what distinguishes each volume is not just its individual excellence but the sense that each is part of a greater unity. This speaks to the artistic vision of the director of course, but also to the personal leadership and sheer managerial competence that he must have been required to exercise.

The detailed layout of each issue is always the same. The format is attractive and original, resembling a book but making it a little tricky to handle the physical discs safely. Period instruments are of course used, and there is a wealth of scholarly and personal comment from Gardiner over and above the full sung texts in German with English translation. The supplementary essay, this time from the violinist Hildburg Williams, is exceptionally interesting also. Commenting on the way Gardiner shaped the vocal expression, and applying the same philosophy to the instrumental work, Williams talks of the `deeper meaning' and `follow[ing] the inflections of the text'. If I understand this rightly, it surely means that the aim was to penetrate to the core of total and unswerving belief that possessed this great composer and drew the music out of him, the often mediocre verses significant only because of the suggestion they held for Bach. In passing, who what or where is `Musica', invoked in one of the chorales in BWV 36? She or it is a new one not only on me but also on my Liddell and Scott Greek lexicon, and may owe her existence only to the divine afflatus of Herr Philipp Nicolai.

Better known is the famous chorale usually referred to in English as `Jesu Joy' from BWV 147. This occurs, with less familiar texts, twice in that cantata, ending each of its two sections in a lovely rendering that is inward without being introverted. All in all, a joy of a set indeed.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Another Gardiner triumph April 20 2010
By W. J. Yoder - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Once again the wait for the release of another John Eliot Gardiner volume on his Bach Pilgrimage has been well worth it. Volume 13 is a typically gorgeous interpretation of the work of the greatest composer of all time. BWV 147, "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben" is one of the most thrilling releases of this mighty work. Most startling for me was BWV 70, "Wachet! betet! betet! wachet! one of Bach's cantatas I have rarely heard. I couldn't remember it at any rate. But I'll not forget it now after hearing the Moneverdi Choir's interpretation.

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