Channel Classic are highly regarded for the technical quality of their recordings. This is no exception -- recorded in high resolution pure DSD with the superb Grimm D/A converters. As usual for Channel, their recordings are elegant, clean and crisp. And clarity with Bach - especially in the pursuit of the representation of parts -- is vital.
Channel and Harvey have had previous successful releases such as the excellent `Death and Devotion' Baroque SACD. And given such stalwarts of Bach cantata performance as Peter Harvey and James Gilchrist, this had all the makings of a stunner.
Unfortunately, though, I did not find this performance rewarding. Quite the opposite, I have several concerns.
First and foremost, soprano Elin Manahan Thomas has an unnerving tendency to be flat, with general intonation variability that is frankly irritating to the extreme. Her style ... which also tends towards legato ... does not always fit with the other performers, nor the character of the works ... especially in the dance-like movements which are often better-suited to a more punctuated style. I also have concern as to her extensive use of vibrato which appears overtly overdone (at least for my taste) for the genre, and inconsistent with the other performers' rendition. This is especially noticeable in the tuttis (due to the one-voice-per-part rendition).
Peter Harvey is both bass and conductor. Like trying to drive and use a mobile phone at the same time, most people typically perform worse multitasking than compared to singular devotion. In particular, his own singing is noticeably sometimes out of step with the Magdalena Consort. Sometimes, as say Track 15 or 17 ... the performance has an almost perfunctory feel. Parts do not seem to have continuity - or purpose. Vocals lines sometimes `drop out'.
There is, of course, an amazing richness of competition in the world of Bach cantata recordings. My own preferences tend towards the Gardiner edition (albeit variable, partly due to live performances), Herreweghe's recordings (especially those available in hi-res SACD), Konrad Junghanel (superb SACDs - one voice per part), the Kuijken series (one voice per part, also on SACD - also variable, but the best of them are outstanding). The performances on this Channel Classics/Harvey release adopt the one-voice-per-part approach that also serves to bring out clarity of paths, but do not seem to achieve the same intimacy of character as attained by Kuijken.
Alas, not a keeper.