The Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists are renowned of their spectacular performances of Bach’s epic masterpiece, which they have toured extensively. During their last tour (in Munich, Frankfurt, Lucerne, Aix-en-Provence and Paris) there was a stampede for tickets and they performed every night in full houses, to spellbound audiences. This album is the culmination of the tour: it was recorded in an open session in London, and captures the special atmosphere of the concerts. It is presented in a 2-CD casebook and contains a booklet featuring original notes by John Eliot Gardiner translated in English, German and French.
Jean-Sébastien Bach est l'un des compositeurs les plus mystérieux de l'histoire de la musique. Comment une oeuvre aussi sublime a-t-elle pu jaillir d'un homme si ordinaire et si opaque ? John Eliot Gardiner a grandi sous le regard d'un des deux portraits authentiques de Bach, conservé dans la maison de ses parents où il avait été caché pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale. …
Although conductors invariably include the six great motets of Bach (BWV225-230) in recordings of these works, they seldom if ever seem to agree which if any other of Bach's motets to perform with them. John Eliot Gardiner very sensibly goes for the lot, adding Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren (BWV231) and the little-known Der Gerechte kommt um which does not even have the benefit of a Schmieder number. As well as these, Gardiner also includes two short pieces which belong, at least nominally, to the cantata category, BWV50 and BWV118. In the case of the latter there is much justification for doing so for it's a single movement choral piece in motet style written for a funeral in about 1736 and revised for a performance around 1740. Here we have what sounds to me like a compromise; in other words the horns, cornetto and sackbuts of the first version (possibly intended for an open air occasion), with the strings and woodwind of the second. This may be explained in the texts, none of which has been included with my review copy…
A selection of Bach's secular smaller-scale choral and vocal works in the Suzuki BIS cantata cycle delights as much as the weightier ones have done.
Masaaki Suzuki is nearing the end of the excellent BIS cycle of all the Bach cantatas. Other complete current cycles of note are those by Ton Koopman on Challenge and John Eliot Gardiner on SDG. This is the only one on SACD although the disks can also be played in stereo on CD players and most computers. It's also a cycle using period instruments; Koopman's and Gardiner's do not.
This older Bach’s spare textures and bold chromatic effects make him a highly individual voice in this penitential but deeply moving music. Peter Harvey’s bass and Claire Wilkinson’s mezzo shine out from this “choir” of soloists, but Gardiner is the driving force.
SDG is proud to release a new recording of Bach's St John Passion. Previous releases have received phenomenal press coverage and tremendous reviews for performance, sound quality and packaging. Recorded in Königslutter in 2003, this two disc album features internationally acclaimed soloists, including Mark Padmore, Hanno Müller-Brachmann, Peter Harvey and Bernarda Fink.
Volume 23 of John Eliot Gardiner’s Cantata Pilgrimage edition is devoted to the first and second Sundays after Easter, with Cantatas 158, for Easter Tuesday, and 150, for an unspecified occasion, tossed in for good measure. No. 150 may have been Bach’s earliest cantata, probably composed during Bach’s stay in Arnstadt, which, incidentally, is where Gardiner’s pilgrims performed and recorded it. Gardiner hypothesizes that Bach might have composed it to show what he could do, and to counter the criticism that had come his way after his extended absence in Lübeck and the incident with the “unauthorized maiden” (apparently his fiancée, Maria Barbara) in the choir loft. Cantata 158, for solo bass, is one of Bach’s late cantatas.
This one features five lesser-known (to me anyway) cantatas, plus one motet, long attributed to Bach, but now known not to be by him. Again, we have the usual high-quality exploration of undeservedly forgotten repertoire, exquisite musical jewels being brought into the light again to shine. Gardiner offers fresh insight into these masterpieces, both in the performance and in his sleeve notes.