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Format: Audio CD
This recording presents four cantatas that Bach wrote for the day of Pentecost. They are all based on John 14:23-31. The first cantata, "Erschallet, Ihr Lieder" was written in Weimar in 1714. Based on a text by Salomo Franck, it depicts the dialogue between men's souls and the Holy Ghost descending upon them. The opening chorus uses 3 trumpets and timpani to underline the special occasion. This grand opening, typical of Bach's writing, is then followed by a bass recitative, who quotes the scripture, and then sings an aria, accompanied by the trumpets and timpani. A soft tenor aria then follows, before a beautiful soprano/countertenor duet. Here, the soprano represents men's souls, while the countertenor is the soft whisper of the Holy Ghost descending upon men. In my opinion, this is the most beautiful aria of this disc. A chorale by Philip Nicolai concludes the work.
The next cantata, "Wer Mich Liebet, Der Wird Mein Wort Halten", BWV 59, is softer than the previous one. Here, no trumpets or timpani, just the sweet sound of oboes and violins introducing the duet for soprano/bass opening the work. A recitative follows, then comes the choral "Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott", written by Martin Luther. This chorale was used by Bach in other works, and he also adapted it for organ. The only solo aria of this cantata is given to the bass, who sings praises to God. The final chorale, "Du heilige Brunst, susser Trost", also by Luther, concludes the work.
BWV 74 bears the same title than BWV 59, although the opening chorus is the only movement that is similar between the two. Bach reused the same melody, harmonizing the soprano and bass parts for a whole choir. But instead of being followed by a recitative, a soprano aria is found instead, inviting the Holy Ghost to come upon us. A countertenor recitative follows, then comes a bass aria quoting the scripture from John. The interesting thing to notice in this cantata is the presence of arias for all four voices: soprano, countertenor, tenor, and bass. Thus, the bass aria is followed by a tenor aria, which itself leads, after a bass recitative, to a countertenor aria. A chorale by Paul Gerhardt concludes the work. This is the longest cantata on the set, and each aria gives Bach the opportunity to highlight the technical capabilities of the soloists.
The last cantata, "O Ewiges Feuer, O Ursprung Der Liebe" BWV 34 is based on a text from an unknown author. Even the date of composition is approximate and cannot be exactly determined. A bright chorus, as in BWV 172, opens the work with trumpets and timpani. This is followed by a tenor recitative which, contrary to the previous cantatas, does not quote the scriptures. The only aria of the cantata is scored for countertenor, and is followed by a bass recitative which leads to the final chorus. Interestingly, this is the only cantata that does not include a chorale and does not quote the scripture from John word for word.
This recording is highly recommended, and if you are interested in this Bach Pilgrimage Collection by Gardiner and his orchestra, check the other ones in the collection. They are all top-notch and represent, at least for me, the ultimate performance of Bach's cantatas.