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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NOT ENOUGH SUNDAYS, 24 Sep 2008
By 
DAVID BRYSON (Glossop Derbyshire England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bach J.S: Cantatas Vol 10 (Audio CD)
The strategy of Gardiner's `pilgrimage' was to perform the Bach cantatas on the liturgical dates for which Bach wrote them. This is always possible when the feast in question is on a specific calendar date, like Christmas. Following variable feasts like Easter or Trinity there is a minor organisational problem, namely that the year 2000, the year of the pilgrimage, may not have as many Sundays after Trinity as had the year of Bach's composition. 1723 had 25 Sundays after Trinity, 2000 did not, so cantata 90 is given to us here with its counterparts for the 19th Sunday-after. Now and again we don't actually know the occasion of the cantata, so the short but very fine cantata 192 is allotted a place here with the cantatas for the feast of the Reformation.

This issue holds seven cantatas, almost exactly two hours of music. The texts for the 19th Sunday-after are rather downbeat, with a strong emphasis on the burden of sin, although possible redemption gets a few tentative mentions. Relief from the generally rueful tone comes mainly in two arias in cantata 5, the gorgeous Ergiesse dich with its flowing accompaniment and the relaxed and confident Verstumme, Hoellenheer in which the legions of hell are told what to do with themselves, rather in the manner of `Get thee behind me Satan'. The atmosphere has lightened a little by the time of the 25th Sunday-after, but the real change of tone comes with the ebullient music for the feast of the Reformation on the second disc. The set ends with the famous cantata 80, famous for its mighty setting of Luther's hymn Ein' feste Burg in Bach's second revision.

This is the 11th or 12th set that I now own from the series, and I have learned what to expect. Gardiner's sense of style is deep and devoted. The performers, vocal and instrumental, were largely having to learn the music as they followed their daunting schedule, but their sheer talent ensures that they bring confidence and assurance to the sense of fresh revelation and discovery. The recording, although very good in general, is not quite as good as sometimes. There is a slight sense of strain with the soprano voices, both solo and choral, and it's a pity that this is particularly evident right at the start on the first track. By way of compensation, the tone of the alto William Towers is one that I find exceptionally agreeable, not something I can always say about male altos. There is a bonus on the instrumental side too, with some terrific tone from the hastily co-opted Fernando Gunter with his bass sackbut in the tremendous Ein' feste Burg.

As always, there is a short essay from one of the performers, and another long and eloquent effort from Gardiner himself. Gardiner's contributions are deeply personal in character, and they speak to a profound love and fascination. Everything he says is illuminating, but some of his insights mean more to me as a listener than others do. In general, I find far fewer representational effects in Bach than Gardiner finds. In cantata 56, as an example, he cites the cello arpeggios in the second number as `depicting' the lapping waves. For me `depicting' is much too strong, and I'll settle for `suggesting'. Compare the flowing figuration in Ergiesse dich from cantata 5 with the murmuring river effects in Smetana's Ma Vlast and you may see the distinction I am trying to draw. That is a representation of the flowing river, Bach's is not. I don't myself believe that Bach was greatly concerned with specific details of the texts he set in the way Handel was. Naturally, there are certain texts where he cannot realistically ignore the pictorial aspects, but in general the infinite fountain of pure abstract music that flowed through him serves magnificently to accompany the statements of faith in his religious music, and his solution in every case is simply the solution that is best from an exclusively musical standpoint.

Another superb addition to a superb series.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unbeatable!, 1 May 2006
This review is from: Bach J.S: Cantatas Vol 10 (Audio CD)
The fourth release in Gardiner's Bach Cantata Pilgrimage maintains the high standards of excellence set by the first volumes.

The material on both CDs could hardly be more contrasting, both spiritually and musically. Although familiar with "Ein feste Burg" and "Nun danket alle", cantatas which exuberantly celebrate the Reformation, the real finds for me were the more introspective cantatas written for the 19th Sunday after Trinity. Gardiner is sensitive to every nuance of the text and score and I found his conclusion to No 56 profoundly moving. Although often identified with brisk tempi, he suits his tempo to the text and the daringly slow invocation to death which ends this cantata is measured to perfection. It's amazing that such relatively short cantatas can encompass such dramatic and musical variety. I especially enjoyed the bass/trumpet arias in cantatas 5 and 90 and the amazing tenor aria in No 5 which is the closest representation of a jacuzzi that I have found in baroque music!

The more celebratory cantatas are predictably magnificent with an overwhelming sense of occasion evident in the introduction to the opening chorus in "Gott, der Herr". Gardiner's attention to dramatic detail guarantees a response - whether the taunting of the "alte bose Feind" in No 80 or the unexpected contrast halfway through the duet in the same cantata, when the reflective tone is replaced by the confident assurance of the heart that truly believes.

The Monteverdi Choir and the English baroque Soloists are in tremendous form and the four soloists are uniformly excellent. Perhaps special mention should be made of Peter Harvey, the bass, as he has the majority of the best arias. I know of no other Bach recordings which are so musically engaging and spiritually moving as Gardiner's.

Full marks too to the attractive packaging, clear translations and helpful notes.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bach Cantatas, 6 Feb 2010
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This review is from: Bach J.S: Cantatas Vol 10 (Audio CD)
As an ex student of many years ago at the Royal Academy of Music, when I was informed in January that there was to be a monthly concert there devoted to Bach Cantatas I felt sad that as I am too elderly, and live too far away to get to London mid day on Sundays I would miss hearing this most wonderful music. As a consolation I decided to buy a recording each month this year, and opted for the John Eliot Gardiner series, each set of cantatas performed on the day of the Church's year for which they were written, and it has proved to be even better than I could possibly have known. There is so much warmth and beautiful playing and singing in these live recordings, I would recommend them to any Bach lover.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There's really no point in reviewing these Gardiner cantatas..., 4 Mar 2007
By 
Teemacs (Switzerland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bach J.S: Cantatas Vol 10 (Audio CD)
..as JG below says, they are all excellent, great musicianship, great performances and most of all great understanding of the texts and what Bach was trying to say. I was pleased to find that BWV80 had lost its trumpets and drums (shoved in by eldest son Wilhelm Friedmann after the old man's death in an attempt to tart the thing up a bit). It doesn't need them - but I did like the wonderfully raspy bass sackbut that Gardiner inserted. I've always loved BWV90, especially the marvellous bass aria "So löschet im Eifer der rächende Richter" with its high-flying trumpet obbligato, and it gets a great performance here.

If you love Bach's cantatas, you owe it to yourself to buy this set.
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Bach J.S: Cantatas Vol 10
Bach J.S: Cantatas Vol 10 by Monteverdi Choir (Audio CD - 2005)
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