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Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
Bach: Cantatas, Vol. 18
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on 6 October 2010
...and what a great journey it has been. A wonderful voyage of discovery through a corpus of music that is relatively unknown and which has so many gems. Paradoxically, this, the last release in the Pilgrimage Series, was the first to be recorded, in Weimar at Christmas 1999. As a result, part of it shares the all-star cast that made Gardiner's brilliant Christmas Oratorio DVD in the Herderkirche, Weimar, including the great soprano-alto duo of Claron McFadden and Bernarda Fink. The highlights here are the marvellous BWV63 "Christen, äztet diesen Tag" and BWV65 "Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen", but the others also receive great performances.

Did you ever think of Jesus as a groover? Just listen to the gorgeous duet "Nun verschwinden alle Plagen" in BWV 32 "Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen" of the soul and Jesus (respectively Magdalena Kozena and Peter Harvey), and if you can sit still and not tap your toes or sway along, have a friend check you for a pulse.

So (sniff) what am I going to buy now? The good news is that the missing stuff, such as BWV11 ("Lobet Gott in seinem Reichen" aka the Ascension Oratorio, numbered in the cantata sequence, but generally not regarded as one) will be recorded. Moreover, that corking Christmas Oratorio will appear on CD. Please join the queue (the one forming behind me).
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 23 December 2011
The text of one of the Christmas Day cantatas here actually says `Come to the dance' - kommt zum Reihen. To me it seems a very appropriate thing to say, as the Bach cantatas are a kind of dance of the cherubim and seraphim, the music of the angels of God. For newcomers, John Eliot Gardiner and his associates went on a `pilgrimage' in the year 2000, the 250th anniversary of the master's death, during which they performed all of them at a succession of different locations on the liturgical dates (so far as that is possible in different years) for which they were written. Christmas Day is obviously the same in as many years as you like, and I think that this may be the first inkling provided that the show got on the road just a week before its official year, with the cantatas for Christmas itself. This is the last of the 27-part series to be issued, it appears, it is obviously the first set of performances, so the reason why it has the sequence-number 18 must follow from those facts in some way.

The sequence of my own collecting is not such a truth above reason but ordinary basic numbering, and this is the 22nd of the series that I now own. My reviews of these have become repetitious, but I make no apology because what I have been repeating, with very rare exceptions, is an unqualified paean of praise. This is a simply magnificent project, not just for the vision and dedication needed to plan it and carry it through but for the sheer consistent excellence of the work at the individual level of the successive issues. This particular set makes a superb impression from the outset, with a particularly opulent sound deriving from the exceptionally large orchestral forces. The recorded quality is excellent, another characteristic of the whole series and one that must have tested the technical staff who had so many different venues to cope with. I have naturally been fascinated, after hearing so many later performances including the last of all, to listen to the inaugural effort. It is as good as any of them, and that is high praise indeed. All the performers, soloists chorus and instrumentalists, distinguish themselves, and the director's sense of conviction, stylistic grasp and feel for the greatness of the music plainly permeates what they all do.

There is one of the occasional `extras' this time, a set of texts from the Gloria of the Mass, given with the Christmas cantatas. The production itself is to the standard format, distinctive and distinguished, in a sort of book presentation. As always, there is one of Gardiner's lengthy, detailed and instructive `blogs'. Any amount can be learned from these, but if I may differ a little from the great man on this occasion I suggest that his immersion in the music has led him into praising Bach one step too far when he purports to find operatic talent. Bach turned away from opera, I say rather, because he had neither taste nor aptitude for it. His musical genius was indeed infinite, but not infinite in every sphere.

Another standard feature is a shorter essay by one of the participants, interestingly on this occasion one who has not apparently participated in the performances put on record here. Never mind, it is quality stuff as usual. I dare say that this notice comes rather late for a Christmas recommendation, but it is going to be a treasure in my own collection for as many Christmases as may remain to me.
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on 4 January 2011
The music of J S Bach is almost essential listening for Advent and Christmas and this volume in the John Eliot Gardiner series is a pure delight. The orchestral playing is very sensitive and the solo and choral work achieve a fine balance with the orchestra. Bach is here portrayed as the undeniable master that he is.
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on 2 April 2012
Not before time, the Paraclete has finally landed on that famous beatnik mop of hair. Yes indeed: Jeggy has surpassed himself here and by a wide margin. I laboriously prised Volume 18 from the library in the expectation it would be another instalment of `brisk efficiency' - how wrong I was. Fair dinkum this is easily among his best recordings ever.

Mind you, the card does not hurt Jeggy's cause. The first dance of the night is a bona fide masterpiece: Christen, ätzet diesen Tag" (the other cantatas are fine works but not quite on this level). BWV 63 could so easily be the seventh instalment of the Christmas Oratorio (and in passing, all the cantatas here are yuletide works). Even if the text were to be reduced to wordless melismas, one would instinctively look to Bethlehem for its inspiration. What a work and what a performance! Credit should also be given to the soloists who are invariably excellent. Claron McFadden sings like an angel in the recitativo `Alt O sel'ger Tag (her shadings are exquisite) and much the same could be said of Magdalena Kozená in the other cantatas (on her tone alone, one can semi-understand why Sir Simon Rattle decided to `broaden' the conjugal load).

There is no sense here that Jeggy is jauntily skating over a spiritual experience: it's thrilling, gutsy, reverential and majestic all at once; for instance, the earlier version of the Gloria from the Mass in B Minor (BWV 191) has more 'spiritual ooze' to its name than the DG recording from 1985. Odd, isn't it? I am at a loss to explain why Jeggy is so attuned to the marrow of these works whereas the connection is so fitful elsewhere. The English Baroque Soloists play for all their worth and (thankfully) then some more and the recording is well and truly in the demonstration class.

What a pity that every instalment of Jeggy's Bach Pilgrimage is not cut from the same cloth.

Gun stuff.
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on 10 January 2014
This is a superb collection of cantatas for Christmas and Epiphany, performed with great relish and clarity by the Monteverdi singers. In addition the Gloria for Christmas is just wonderful, full of pace and beauty. As ever in this series the accompanying notes are excellent, helping to see how Bach's music brings out the meaning of the words.
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on 18 August 2013
I have several Gardiner/Monteverdi Choir tape recordings which I love. Thought I should get a CD, and this one is superb and hugely enjoyable. Thoroughly recommended.
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on 3 October 2013
I love all Bach cantatas, and I have decided to start collecting the cds by Gardiner. And this decision has proved to be the right choice.
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on 19 March 2015
No-one else can perform the Bach Cantata as well. Still building up the set
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on 11 October 2016
Epic!! Nearly got the whole set!
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on 7 January 2013
As with all this collection - a good sound, beautifully sung and played. A must for anyone who loves coral music and Bach in particular.
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