Those (or at any rate their German equivalent) are the very last words sung on this 2-disc issue. They make a convenient and (I hope) neat caption for a review of the set, because it belongs with the best of this great series. For any newcomers, Gardiner and his colleagues dedicated the year 2000 to an international `pilgrimage' in which they performed all Bach's extant cantatas on the liturgical occasions for which he had written them. It would be superfluous to comment on the sheer scale and scope of such an undertaking, but it might be worth saying for the nth time that the standard of the performances is at a level that might be hard to credit. The recordings are live, the performers were to a great extent learning the music as they went along, the opportunities for rehearsal were scant, the sheer travelling must have been exhausting, and yet the results are as good as this.
The cantatas here are for the 6th and 7th Sundays after Trinity, of which two and three respectively survive. Making up some space on the first disc there is a motet by Kuhnau, the arrangement in the form we have here being thought by some to be by Bach. Not so thought by me, I must say, but a pleasant enough piece and new to me. I am getting familiar with the names of the soloists by now, and indeed quite a few of them are famous from other contexts also. In each case the alto soloist is a counter-tenor, and although I am not hugely fond of the counter-tenor sound I am always relieved and encouraged to see the name of Michael Chance. He performs on the first disc, and the strength of tone that I have always associated with him is here unfailingly. I was less familiar with his counterpart Richard Wyn Roberts on disc #2, but again I greatly like his tone, almost suggestive of a high tenor. The other soloists tick all the boxes as they usually do, the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists are on excellent form, and above all Gardiner himself deserves enormous credit for his sheer leadership as well as for the insight into Bach that shines though every bar.
Reservations regarding the sound quality have been rare so far, and I have none this time. The sung texts are translated for us, as are the accompanying essays, two of them as usual. There is always a short personal statement by one of the performers, this time a violinist, and there is the customary long, loving and profound essay by Gardiner himself. Does he perhaps read more illustrative elements into the music than are really there? I guess he does, but such immersion in the music is always likely to have that effect, and it is a small enough price to pay for the guidance he offers in any number of other ways. I sometimes remember and sometimes forget to mention that although the format of these sets in a kind of book form is original and attractive you need to be careful when handling the discs themselves, as they are difficult to extract when you want to do that, and liable to fall out when you don't.
Otherwise it is just a matter of Gratias.
on 7 January 2013
Having heard part of the cantata sung on radio 3, I wanted to buy a copy (sung by Andreas Scholl) to give to a good friend for Christmas. Obviously everyone had the same idea as it was out of stock. This seemed a good alternative, my friend was absolutely delighted and tells me she has played it a lot.I know the choir is superb, and it's a must for anyone who enjoys listening to counter tenors. I did have to apologise for the picture on the cover- when yoy get older you sometimes become somewhat sensetive about these things!
on 25 June 2009
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.
It's sad that the journey is coming to a close - there are only about 6 volumes left in the series (assuming that Gardiner does not get permission from DG to re-release the ones already released on Archiv), but the pleasure of this great enterprise will endure.
on 31 March 2012
The moon was impaled on the Sword of Orion by the time the Lancaster Bombers of the R.J.A.F. reached the Ruhr Valley. Their target was the Karl Richter Memorial Dam.
"I say, there we are chaps: I can see the target below. We've caught the Hun on the hop!"
This spoke Air Field Marshall Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Attired like Biggles, he was daintily sipping away on an Earl Gray tea in the cockpit of his Mosquito. He turned to the pilot beside him.
"This operation is sure to be a success. I am running out of room on my chest to accommodate all those medals from the Gramophone Magazine but it's a good problem to have."
"Sir, are you that confident of victory?"
"Absolutely! We're no longer using those bouncing bombs by that Wallis fellow. Each one of the planes is loaded with a `Jeggy Jauntiness Bomb'. It is far more effective in blowing away decades of high romanticism, opaque textures and excessive reverence. We're also going to rake the dam wall with the usual armaments: clipped phrasing, sour strings and fast tempi!"
Jeggy turned on the radio.
"Come in everyone - over!"
"E for English Baroque Soloists - over!"
"M for the Monteverdi Choir - over!"
"M2 for Michael Chance - counter-tenor supreme - over!" a high pitch voice shrieked.
"O for Other Soloists - over."
"S for the Soli Deo Gloria production team - over."
"Chaps, you know the plan of attack. We will start with a mundane performance of BWV 9 "Es ist das Heil uns Kommen her" followed by a rapid-fire traversal of BWV 179. A wonderful funeral motet by Johann Kuhnau will follow. If the dam is still standing at that point, we'll unleash acidic performances of BWV 186, 107 & 187. Each of you is armed with a `Jeggy Jauntiness Bomb'. I want you to attack the dam in sequence as agreed; I will hover above and direct the overall operation. Soli Deo Gloria expects every man, woman and faux-castrato to do their duty!"
"But sir, last time we attacked this structure," Michael Chance screeched, "we copped flak from all directions. From what intelligence tells us, Dame Janet Baker is manning the guns herself in BWV 179 `Vergnugte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust'. They've also brought in some high velocity Japanese guns, controlled by that Suzuki fellow. This is a suicide mission!"
Jeggy haughtily dismissed this concern: it was time to attack. The first of the Lancasters broke formation and made its approach from the south-east: it was captained by Michael Chance. He never got a chance to unleash the Jeggy Jauntiness Bomb - a certain British alto took aim with a Bofors AA-gun and blew him to smithereens.
"Great Scott!" Sir Jeggy exclaimed headedly. "That was rather awful. Still, he died a brave man and we will remember him at the going down of the sun and at the Gramophone Awards. Change of plans: attack in formation!"
The Lancasters that followed had better luck. Notwithstanding the maelstrom of ack-ack, they successfully dropped their ordnance in the water. Seconds later as Jeggy looked on excitedly, they smashed into the concave wall of the dam. Alas, each of them was a damp squib (they were laden with bright vacuity rather than high-explosive).
"Chaps, if nothing else we have scratched that hideous structure!" the Air Marshall trumpeted proudly. "Now, let us return to our Dorset aerodrome and revel in this stupendous feat of arms!