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BACH Cantatas Vols.1 & 8
The Monteverdi Choir, The English Baroque Soloists/ John Eliot Gardiner

Cantatas for the Feast of St. John the Baptist (CD1)
Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe BWV 167; Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam BWV 7; Freue dich, erlöste Schar BWV 30

Cantatas for the First Sunday after Trinity
Die Elenden sollen essen BWV 75; Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot BWV 39; O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort BWV 20

Joanne Lunne, Gillian Keith, Wilke te Brummelstroete, Paul Agnew, Dietrich Henschel
The Monteverdi Choir, The English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner

Monteverdi Productions CD SDG101 [£17.00]

A rousing welcome to this triumph over adversity, in a spiritual context one of Bach's themes. This Volume 1 on a new label is a tribute to persistence and cooperation to circumvent the malign influence of Universal's accountants after Deutsche Grammophon reneged on their intention to issue the whole of John Eliot Gardiner's Bach Cantata Pilgrimage 2000. Musical Pointers, which focuses especially on artists and ventures outside the mainstream, has not recently been receiving Universal's releases for review, so it is pleased to endorse the universal praise which the first Monteverdi Productions releases have accrued.

The cantatas were performed on the feast days for which they were written and the releases reflect those couplings. We attended the first leg of the British part of the tour, January 2000 at Greenwich. This first 2CD set was performed and recorded live in June 2000 at St Giles Cripplegate in the City of London, its excellent acoustic for music of this type frequently used for BBC R3 broadcasts.

The music is breathtakingly various and there is a sense of participation in something of immense importance, so that everyone is giving of their best. The hand-picked Monteverdi Choir is magnificent and its contributions enhance the grandest moments, which are often in the choruses. Many of the arias and choruses will be unknown and are likely to be greeted with wonderment; the soloists take their difficulties in their stride and reflect the vast improvement in Bach-singing over recent decades. The tones of the period wind instruments are ravishing and well balanced with the voices by the engineers.

The presentation is in black case-bound books, with bright, easily legible, white on black printing of personal notes by Gardiner, which become particularly graphic describing the horrors of BWV 20, and comments by some of his musicians; bass Dietrich Henschel (who 'strode purposively to climb into the pulpit and deliver a harrowing contemplation of a thousand million years with all the demons) felt that in these concerts 'the dichotomy between the spiritual and the operatic vanished; they became real 'services'.

Information, including texts with translations, is comprehensive and, whilst navigating the pages was not easy immediately, the format will be consistent through the series.

At £17 for each book with two well-filled CDs, the Monteverdi Productions Bach cantatas are good value and some of them should find places in everyone's collections.

Monteverdi Productions Vol 8 SDG 104 received is equally recommendable; click on the catalogue number to listen to excerpts and see sleeve notes:

Cantatas for the 15th Sunday after trinity
BWV 138 - Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz
BWV 99 - Was Gott tut, das is wohlgetan
BWV 51 - Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen!
BWV 100 - Was Gott tut, das is wohlgetan

Cantatas for the 16th Sunday after Trinity
BWV 161 - Komm, du süsse Todesstunde
BWV 27 - Wer weiss, wie nahe mir mein Ende!
BWV 8 - Liebster Gott, wann werd ich sterben?
BWV 95 - Christus, der ist mein leben


© Peter Grahame Woolf