John Eliot Gardiner & Monteverdi Choir & English Baroque SoloistsCantatas (27th Sunday after Trinity)
Cantatas BWV 140, BWV 147
A question to me from Matthew Westphal (10/18/03) to which I'm now responding; and an old discussion
Carol wrote (November 7, 2003):
The specific CD I lend to people who have probably never heard Bach's choral music is John Eliot Gardiner's recording of Cantatas BWV 140 and BWV 147, which was re-released in the year 2000. This is also the first I bought as gifts. I know most of these people well enough that I'm certain they had some prior acquaintance with Bach's music.
So far, the few who didn't react well really aren't music lovers, and that is fine. But I want people not to be deprived of one of the greatest experiences of their lives, in case they feel as I do.
I love the Aria, Bereite dir, Jesu, noch it, in BWV 147. I adored it from the first time I heard it. The magnificent chorus that follows is way too familiar, but the aria's beauty, which my son I think aptly described as an introductory interpretation of it, is equal to that of the overplayed 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desire,' chorus.
But I wanted people to hear ithe chorus uncorrupted. Some of my friends told me they'd never heard it sung, were unaware that it was intended as such, and so discovered its real power and loveliness. And I wanted them to know it's only a small component of an entire piece of this work, which begins with another superb chorus. Strangely enough, my frustration over popularizing the chorus led me to put off purchasing this cantata on CD until after I had bought most of the other eleven in the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage series Gardiner produced in 2000.
I wanted to give people something with melodies they would recognize because it's natural for anyone to love a piece of music more after it becomes familiar. I wanted Bach to get the credit for those hymns people sing in church.
I am enamored of the clear, ethereal voice of soprano, Ruth Holton. And, her intonation, ability to attack, slide into and release a note and take a breath at precisely the right time is something everyone should hear. I read that Bach wanted the soprano to represent the innocent soul in conversation with Jesus in the duet in Cantata BWV 140. I don't believe anyone could better fit the part.
I love Gardiner's conducting, the Monteverdi Singers and the English Baroque Soloists. (I will not be surprised to hear disagreement about this one, having tuned in to the Bach Cantata Website.)
Due to the fact that the CD doesn't have a long playing time, people can't roll their eyes too much over the recitatives.
So, that is my choice, and those are the reasons. Since the holiday season is not far away, I would like recommendations from others as to your favorite Bach vocal recordings in print.
Uri Golomb wrote (November 7, 2003):
Carol wrote: < I love Gardiner's conducting, the Monteverdi Singers and the English Baroque Soloists. (I will not be surprised to hear disagreement about this one, having tuned in to the Bach Cantata Website.) >
I am "in the middle" on this one. I admire many of Gardiner's Bach CDs, but this particular one (BWV 140, BWV 147) is not one of my favourites: I love the soloists, but I find Gardiner's interpretation a bit shallow and uniform, comapred to what I know he can achieve. (In fact, Christophers' reading of Cantata BWV 147 sounds more or less like what I expected from Gardiner -- except that I prefer Gardiner's soloists...)
My own favourite Bach/Gardiner CD (and I have not yet heard them all) is the one containing cantatas BWV 105, BWV 94 and BWV 168; the Advent cantatas (BWV 36, BWV 61, BWV 62) are a close second. In both of these, I think Gardiner devotes much more attention to detail and inspires performances that have both greater momentum and deeper expression. I also love his cantata BWV 34, though I have reservations with his readings of other works featured on the same CD.
Here's a review I wrote of the BWV 105-BWV 94-BWV 168 disc (for a selection of four "best" Gardiner recordings, accompanying someone else's interview with Gardiner in the early music magazine Goldberg). It's as close as I can come to characterising what I love about Gardiner at his best:
This recording documents one of the most impressive concerts in Gardiner's Bach Pilgrimage (another such concert is available on a BBC Opus Arte DVD, with a documentary on the Pilgrimage as a whole). The sense of discovery is keenly felt in these carefully considered yet spontaneous-sounding performances - including, arguably, the finest Cantata BWV 105 on record. This cantata's opening chorus has all the necessary gravitas, the articulation so gentle as to create the illusion of an overall legato; but the constant, purposeful dynamic shading creates a sense of urgency which belies the slow tempo. The intense pain is momentarily dispelled in the chorus's fugal section, but returns in the hauntingly beautiful soprano aria. The following bass recitative begins calmly; but Gardiner, and the bass Peter Harvey, gradually introduce a harsher, livelier tone, leading into James Gilchrist's defiantly heroic rendition of the tenor aria. Calm is partly restored in the concluding chorale: Bach gradually slows down the orchestra's background rhythms, and Gardiner matches this by similarly softening both timbre and dynamics.Next to Gilchrist's and Harvey's forthright, dramatic singing (Harvey is especially compelling in "Tue Rechnung! Donnerwort", the opening aria of BWV BWV 168), the voices of soprano Katharine Fuge and countertenor Daniel Taylor might seem soft-focused. They too, however, are highly effective. Fuge also displays a wide expressive range: her mellifluous singing in BWV BWV 105 contrasts markedly with her sharper, dance-like rendition of the soprano aria in BWV BWV 94.On this evidence, Gardiner's complete cantata cycle could have been as consistently satisfying as any. As all of the Pilgrimage concerts have been recorded, one hopes that they will one day be available to the public.
Carol wrote (November 7, 2003):
Uri Golomb wrote: < In fact, Christophers' reading of Cantata BWV 147 sounds more or less like what I expected from Gardiner – except that I prefer Gardiner's soloists...) >
Maybe Gardiner has matured a lot since 1992, when nos. BWV 140 and BWV 147 were recorded. Still, hearing Ruth Holton, and yes, definitely, the other soloists, is worth your not liking the conducting. You gotta admit that, right? I have all 12, and I hope the others are recorded, because I have yet to hear anything equaling them, except Herreweghe. (In fairness to other conductors, I haven't heard many.) But Gardiner's the reason I became so enamored of the cantatas. So it must mean something. You should listen to Gardiner's Christmas Cantatas, (BWV 63, BWV 64, BWV 121 and BWV 133) if you haven't heard them. I'd be interested in what you think of the tenor, Julian Podger in his aria on BWV 121. He sounds like he was born singing, and it's as easy as breathing.
Carol wrote (November 7, 2003):
[To Uri Golomb] Uri, I forgot to tell you, I'm going to listen to Cantata BWV 105 and BWV 34 with your comments and that of the reviewer in mind. I'll respond when I've listened enough. This it the type of connection I had hoped to make in joining this group. Thank you.
Aryeh Oron wrote (November 7, 2003):
Uri Golomb wrote: << In fact, Christophers' reading of Cantata BWV BWV 147 sounds more or less like what I expected from Gardiner -- except that I prefer Gardiner's soloists...) >>
Carol wrote: < Who's Christophers? >
Short Biography of Harry Christophers: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Christophers-Harry.htm
His ensemble The Sixteen: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Sixteen.htm
List of his recordings of Bach's vocal works: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Christophers.htm
Uri Golmb wrote (November 7, 2003):
[To Carol] Thanks -- glad you enjoyed the review...
< Maybe Gardiner has matured a lot since 1992, when BWV 140 and BWV 147 were recorded. >
I wouldn't say that. My favourite Gardiner recordings include his St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244), Monteverdi Vespers and Orfeo, and Mozart C minor Mass (plus several piano concerti with Bilson), and these were all done in the mid- to late-1980s. I just feel he isn't at his best in this particular recording, that's all. I know that the feeling is not universal... I should add that it's been a while since I last heard that CD -- maybe I'll feel differently the next time I hear it. I'd be curious to hear how these cantats sounded in the Pilgrimage itself, though.
Yes, all the cantatas have been recorded. Quite a few were taped by radio stations along the route; and Gardiner took care to record all the rest. I think I read somewhere that he made sure to retain the copyright for these recordings, and that he's still interested in releasing the entire series. He needs sponsors for that, though.
Another item of interest -- he's writing a book about Bach, examining his world view through his text-settings... Should be very interesting. I know the book is due for publication, but I'm not sure when and by whom.
Are you familiar with Suzuki's recordings? I wouldn't say he's better than Gardiner or Herreweghe, but he's up on the same league. Personally, I wouldn't recommend his earliest volumes (I once heard him give a live performance of Cantata BWV 131 which was much better than his recording of that work -- much more dramatic...), but he's gone from strength to strength. (Again, I know there are those -- including on this list -- who have different views). I haven't heard all his recordings, but I'd certainly recommend vols. 8, 9, 15 and the two Passions (which are now available as a single set, at least in some countries: basically, you buy the St. Matthew (BWV 244) and get the St. John (BWV 245) for free...) 15 is the latest volume I bought, but I heard parts of later volumes on the radio, and they too seem excellent. He's gentler than Gardiner much of the time, but knows how to be ferocious and dramatic where necessary (for example, the opening movement of Cantata BWV 70).
John Eliot Gardiner: Short
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Choir | English
Recordings: Part 1
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General Discussions: Part
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Cantatas: Cantatas BWV
106, 118b, 198 | Cantatas
BWV 140, 147 | Cantatas
BWV 11, 37, 43, 128 | Cantatas
BWV 6, 66 | Cantatas
BWV 72, 73, 111, 156 | Cantatas
BWV 82, 83, 125, 200
Bach Cantata Pilgrimage: BCP
- Vols 1&8 | BCP
- Vol. 14 | BCP
- Vol. 15 | BCP
- Vol. 21 | BCP
- Vol. 22 | BCP
- Vol. 23 | BCP
- Vol. 24 | BCP
- Vol. 26 | Bach
Cantata Pilgrimage DVD | DVD
John Eliot Gardiner in Rehearsal
Other Vocal Works: BWV
232 - Gardiner | BWV
244 - Gardiner | BWV
245 - Gardiner | BWV
248 - Gardiner | BWV
1127 - Gardiner
Table of recordings
by BWV Number