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John Eliot Gardiner & Monteverdi Choir & English Baroque Soloists
Bach Cantata Pilgrimage - Vol. 24

P-24

Bach Cantatas Vol. 24: Altenburg/Warwick
For the 3rd Sunday after Easter (Jubilate)
For the 4th Sunday after Easter (Cantate)

 
 

CD-1: Cantatas BWV 12 [22:38], BWV 103 [15:10], BWV 146 [38:53]
CD-2: Cantatas BWV 166 [17:08], BWV 108 [13:49], BWV 117 [20:35]

John Eliot Gardiner

Monteverdi Choir / English Baroque Soloists

CD-1: Soprano: Brigitte Geller; Counter-tenor: William Towers; Tenor: Mark Padmore; Bass: Julian Clarkson
CD-2: Soprano: Choir [BWV 166]; Counter-tenor: Robin Tyson; Tenor: James Gilchrist; Bass: Stephen Varcoe

Soli Deo Gloria 107

CD-1: May 14, 2000
CD-2: May 21, 2000

2-CD / TT: 128:41

Live recordings from the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage:
CD-1: Schlosskirche, Altenburg, Germany.
CD-2: St Mary's Collegiate Church, Warwick, England
See: John Eliot Gardiner - Bach Cantata Pilgrimage - Vol. 24
Buy this album at:
2-CD: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de
Music Download: Amazon.com | Amazon.co,uk | Amazon.de | ClassicsOnline

Gardiner Cantata Pilgrimage

John Pike wrote (May 16, 2005):
I have been listening to Vol. 24 of the Gardiner Cantata Pilgrimage, released last week. Very fine it is too. The beginning of BWV 103 is particularly good. There are some top notch singers included, such as Mark Padmore.

One can now pre-order them from Monteverdi Productions so that they get sent out automatically as soon as they are released. This way you save 25% and, as far as I can see, postage is free, at least to UK addresses.

John Pike wrote (May 17, 2005):
Details of Gardiner's PCP Vol. 24

For those of you interested in the details of this new album, they are:
CD1 Cantatas for Third Sunday after Easter (Jubilate). Schlosskirche, Altenburg. 14.5.2000
TT 76.53
Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, BWV 12. TT 22.38
Ihr werdet weinen und heulen, BWV 103. TT 15.10
Wir muessen durch viel Truebsal in das Reich Gottes eingehen, BWV 146. TT 38.53

Brigitte Geller, soprano; William Towers, alto; Mark Padmore, tenor; Julian Clarkson, bass

CD2 Cantatas for Fourth Sunday after Easter (Cantate). St Mary's Church, Warwick, 21.5.2000
TT 52.48
Wo gehest du hin? BWV 166. TT 17.08
Es ist euch gut, dass ich hingehe, BWV 108. TT 13.49
Sei Lob und Ehr dem hoechsten Gut, BWV 117 (occasion unspecified). TT 20.35

Robin Tyson, alto; James Gilchrist, tenor; Stephen Varcoe, bass

Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists, Sir John Eliot Gardiner
SDG 107, vol. 24

Asryeh Oron wrote (May 17, 2005):
[To John Pike] Thanks for the info. I shall update the BCW accordingly.

Just a small question. Cantata BWV 166 includes Chorale for Soprano (Mvt. 3). Usually it is sung by a soloist, but no name was mentiond for the concert of May 21, 2000. Is it sung by the soprano section of the Monteverdi Choir?

Balwantray Chauhan wrote (May 17, 2005):
[To Aryeh Oron] It is sung by an uncredited single soprano.

I received all three CD packages yesterday directly from SDG. For those of you in Canada (or the US) the shipping time was only a few days and if you get on the mailing list, the shipping is free. The CDs cost 16 pounds each. They are beautifully packaged.

Richard Bradbury wrote (May 17, 2005):
[To Aryeh Oron] It certainly sounds like the soprano section I'd endorse John's comments - it's been on in the house and the car since Saturday.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 19, 2005):
[To Aryeh Oron] Has anybody submitted this question directly to info@monteverdi.org.uk ? (I don't have the album yet, just wondering.)

Aryeh Oron wrote (May 19, 2005):
[To Bradley Lehman] Yes. I did.

Aryeh Oron wrote (May 19, 2005):
[To Bradley Lehman] I have just received an answer from Monteverdi Productions, saying that the Chorale (Mvt. 3) from Cantata BWV 166 is sung by the whole soprano section of the Monteverdi Choir.

By doing it Gardiner follows Barbe, Rilling and Koopman. It would be interesting investigating this aspect when we discuss this cantata next year (Week of April 16, 2006).

Lex Schelvis wrote (May 19, 2005):
[To Aryeh Oron] As far as I know Suzuki is doing the same. Don't have the booklet here to check, but I always thought I heard a choir.

Aryeh Oron wrote (May 20, 2005):
[To Lex Schelvis] I have checked and listened. You are absolutly right. So most conductors prefer to use the soprano section of the choir to sing this chorale. Leonhardt and Leusink are the only exceptions. I guess that with OVPP recording this chorale will also be sung by the soprano section (of 1 voice) (-:

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 20, 2005):
[To Aryeh Oron] BWV 166/3 has an interesting dynamic marking inserted personally by Bach at the beginning of m.7 where the soprano voice enters in the 2nd half of this measure: both the 'Violino 2 do' and 'Viola' parts have a 'piano' marking indicating to these parts to 'cut back' in volume just before the soprano voice enters. Would such a marking be necessary, if the entire soprano section sings this part? It would only make sense to include this dynamic marking if a single voice were singing the chorale melody. What sort of problem would the violins and violas have in 'overshadowing' more than one soprano if they are already playing lower than the voice part? Bach obviously wishes to ensure that a single voice is not going to be 'overpowered' by the upper strings. It would not matter as much if all the sopranos were singing in unison, particularly with a high tessitura (see below.) Hence it appears as if Bach intended for this soprano part to be sung by a single soprano concertist and not necessarily a soloist together with the ripienists.

Another interesting point is that this mvt. BWV 166/3 has a soprano part with a much high tessitura than the only other place where sopranos are asked to sing: BWV 166/6, the final chorale. This fact, the difference in tessituras between these two mvts., also seems to point to a single concertist/soprano soloist as intended by Bach to sing this part (BWV 166/3 and not the entire soprano section. Of course, as Aryeh hinted, an OVPP would solve this problem, but then OVPP is very much less likely to have occurred in Leipzig than in some of the Weimar cantatas that have been discussed here recently.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: OVPP - Part 18 [General Topics]


Gardiner on R3 - BCP 24

Tom Dent wrote (May 22, 2005):
I heard the first fifteen minutes or so of cantata BWV 146, the recent release, on Radio 3 today. Apparently there was some drama around the organ part - the instrument was tuned to a different pitch from the one expected, and they decided to make the organist learn the part in a different key. When the opening Sinfonia is a virtuoso transcription of the D minor keyboard concerto, that's no easy task. And there was a cipher just before recording was due to start, which led - don't ask me how - to Gardiner being locked in the organ loft for the best part of an hour. (best place for him, if you ask me.)

It did sound ratodd in places, perhaps because of the effect of performing with the organ in the 'wrong' key. Since the organ sets the temperament, I would have thought it would be preferable to shift the pitch of the instruments and voices.

The ensuing chorus was to my ears a little slow, and it was unclear where the principal melodic line was to be found - in the concerto it's obviously the bass, with ornaments supplied from keyboard - but now, with three other vocal parts composed on top? I felt that Bach's newly composed soprano part merited more definite shaping. The chorus was quite effective in conveying a sense of directionless wandering... (durch viel Truebsal eingehen?) possibly also due to the three equally heavy accents per bar.

This is what I meant by 'long phrasing' (or the lack of it). Not whether one uses long legato phrases, but whether the small elements of phrasing are built coherently into larger ones and into a whole movement. This requires the small elements to be modified according to their place in the larger unit. For example, the last ritornello of a concerto movement might be played in a more emphatic fashion than in the middle of the movement - or on a smaller scale, playing the first beat in one bar stronger than in the next. Of course, making random changes (or inserting random ornaments) does not result in long phrasing either.

Perhaps this sort of attention to the coherence and trajectory of the movement as a whole wasn't looked for in a typical Baroque concerted performance, which would have been little more than sight-reading - although Bach himself would have been able to exert some shaping influence from the organ. Not that sight-reading is necessarily a bad thing in some cases... makes for an exciting life.

Then again a typical Baroque concerted performance, though fitting to its place and time, might not bear repeating very many times by the singing machine that eats the magic shining disc and spits it out again.

Thomas Shepherd wrote (May 22, 2005):
[To Tom Dent] Until next Saturday, it will be possible to hear the program via the web. The programme is to be found at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/index.shtml?logo
next press the "Listen Again" and when the BBC Radio Player screen appears, find under "A-Z all shows", "CD Review". The last broadcast (21/05/05) will load.

"CD Review" is 4 hours long. It starts at 9.00 am and finishes at 1,00pm. Unless you want to listen to the whole programme you will need to move the programme on to the 3hour mark. There are three buttons - pause, stop and play. Press and hold mouse on the play button and the minutes counter will rush on!

Beware though - it is very easy to go beyond three hours and you will have to start from the beginning of the programme.

Happy listening!!

John Pike wrote (May 22, 2005):
[To Tom Dent] It's important to remember that Gatrdiner's recordings are supposed to be a record of a pilgrimage in which all the extant church cantatas were performed in the space of a year. Theis presented horrendous musical, logistical, technical and social problems etc. The recordings could never be JEG/MC/EBS last word on perfection in Bach. They were never intended to be. However, as a record of an extraordinary achievement they are, to my mind, very worthy performances, full of energy, enthusiasm and joy. They often make a pleasing change from more polished (and frankly sometimes comparatively boring) recordings, specially prepared over numerous takes.

In the notes accompanying vol. 24, the organist Silas John Standage discusses the joys and frustrations of playing BWV on the famous Trost organ in Altenburg's Schlosskirche. This is one of the finest instruments to have survived from Bach's time. Bach himself played it on its completion in 1739.

The other organ obbligato organ parts were performed on the Robin Jennings chamber organ that travelled with them.

The problems included: 1. the organ being tuned in Chorton and having to play it in a different ke since everything else was set up for A=415 throughout the pilgrimage. An experienced organist like that can cope with this, even in such a difficult opening movement. (John Eliot G discusses all these issues in his introduction to each CD). 2. Very warm weather and the warm breath of a capacity audience raised the pitch still further. 3. The unpredictabilities of old instruments.

Somehow, the other wind instruments managed to compensate.

There were also problems positioning other musicians and the conductor in relation to the organ.

My view is that JEG and the other musicians should be congratulated on making this brave and exciting decision for just one cantata. Personally, the riches of hearing this great organ being played in one of Bach's cantatas greatly out weigh the imperfections in performance (I must confess I hardly noticed them anyway).

Tom Dent wrote (May 23, 2005):
Legends of the recording studio

This is, mostly, somewhat tangentially related. But I'll start off with a few remarks directly related to Gardiner.

Gardiner chose the schedule and method of his 'pilgrimage' (or Grand Tour). The obstacles that must repeatedly crop up in trying to get such an enormous and impractical project finished, with what most people would regard as very little time and funding, are of his own choosing. He knows very well the discomfort, crises, lack of sleep, general distractions of going on an extended tour, but that was his preferred method.

That particular historic organ played by Bach himself, appearing in Vol.24, is not going to disappear any time soon. Anyone who wants to can go there and take days (if needed) to make a recording. Rush, stress, last-minute crises, are not necessary or beneficial parts of music-making.

As far as the 'perfection' of a recording goes, we ought to distinguish between technical proficiency and individual insights of interpretation. Gardiner's forces are clearly very highly technically proficient, to the extent of being able almost to work on autopilot under normal circumstances. You have to be like that to go on tour. Unless there is a pervasive problem with intonation or suchlike, technical issues don't interest me. Wrong notes are not what constitutes the human element of a performance.

(In fact, if the organ was at Chorton, and the instruments at Cammerton, what was the problem? Surely that was what Bach wrote for.)

But there is the question of how the interpretation emerges from the ensemble. There are lots of legends about what happened in recording studios. My favourite is the Reginald Kell / Busch recording of Brahms Clarinet Quintet. They simply went into the studio and played the thing through about five times straight, and the last version (some time in the small hours) was the recording. And there are lots of stories that after hours of painstaking orchestral work there is half an hour of session time left so they do one last straight take - which turns out to be the recording.

What is happening is not that technical hitches are getting ironed out. It's that people who may never have performed the music together before are, with every time through, listening more to the piece and to what each other are (is?) doing with it. Musical communication (not verbal!) is taking place. The result is a new, unique interpretation that none of them individually could have specified beforehand. (This is also the point of having a permanent music director at an orchestra or choir.) What is so exciting about the recording process, if it works, is that the interpretation can evolve in new directions, if the participants are willing to give their full attention over the extended session time.

Contrast this with a run-of-the-mill performance or recording, in which the conductor gives instructions to the performers, who then concentrate on carrying them out precisely. Rehearsals and alternate takes are only needed to remove technical mistakes. This is a very quick and efficient way of producing a product which the market will find acceptable. Unless the conductor is a genius, it likely results in an 'interpreta' which is just an average over previous recordings: attention is focused only on not making mistakes.

Having said all this, the presence or absence of interpretive insight in Gardiner's tour recordings - whether they reach the 'Reich Gottes' after their 'durch viel Trubsal' - is judged only by repeated listening.

John Pike wrote (May 23, 2005):
[To Tom Dent] The purpose of the pilgrimage was not to make recordings. The recordings are a by-product of the exercise. For some time it was doubtful whether there would ever be more than the 12 released by DG. I am not listening for technical perfection in these recordings, or even for Gardiner at his brilliant best musically (since, to my mind at least, some of his recordings over the years have been sensational).

I am listening to these recordings as a record of a flawed pilgrimage, but I find the results often very exciting. Of course there were many risks involved and everyone knew it was going to be very difficult much of the time but so what? If you never take chances in life and if you only ever do something if you think you will achieve technical and musical perfection, life would be very boring. So I for one salute Gardiner's sterling efforts and I am greatly enjoying the performances for what they are.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 23, 2005):
Tom Dent writes: "What is so exciting about the recording process, if it works, is that the interpretation can evolve in new directions, if the participants are willing to give their full attention over the extended session time."
Session times, in my experience, are never extended, but barely enough to get everything done that needs to be done. And arguably, the recording studio is not the place to be deciding on interpretative matters - that should have been done much earlier.

"Contrast this with a run-of-the-mill performance or recording, in which the conductor gives instructions to the performers, who then concentrate on carrying them out precisely. Rehearsals and alternate takes are only needed to remove technical mistakes. This is a very quick and efficient way of producing a product which the market will find acceptable. Unless the conductor is a genius, it likely results in an 'interpretation' which is just an average over previous recordings: attention is focused only on not making mistakes."
But that is basically how these works would have been performed for the first time. The whole notion of 'interpretation' is a relatively modern one (and in some ways, an over-rated one). It is surely the conductor's job to give instructions to the performers, and if they do not at least try to carry them out precisely, what is the point of having him/her?

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 23, 2005):
< But there is the question of how the interpretation emerges from the ensemble. There are lots of legends about what happened in recording studios. My favourite is the Reginald Kell / Busch recording of Brahms Clarinet Quintet. They simply went into the studio and played the thing through about five times straight, and the last version (some time in the small hours) was the recording. And there are lots of stories that after hours of painstaking orchestral work there is half an hour of session time left so they do one last straight take - which turns out to be the recording. >
Another good example of that is Mitsuko Uchida's recording of the Schoenberg piano concerto. I heard a radio program about that, where she said she and the orchestra had time for one last play-through for fun, relaxed and confident that the material was already covered at least adequately. And, that last take turned out to be THE ONE. (Of course, one is always free to bring in small fixes of short passages from earlier takes, if necessary. Whichever take happens to be THE ONE, or the first half of THE ONE coupled with a second half from elsewhere, or whatever...it's the producer's job to keep track of that stuff and be sure that THE ONE exists in there somewhere!)

Same type of experience here, when I've produced other people's recordings (Schubert piano trios) or my own: as producer, keep the musicians playing as long as they still sound fresh and engaged, and able to concentrate. Even if the material is already covered adequately, an additional one or two takes might be even better...and little is lost by trying, unless the performers are already completely fried by that point. It depends also how much is left to do within the same session, as to additional pieces.

I did four days of marathon sessions in March, simultaneously producing and playing, and kept going on each piece until I was confident that either (1) a better result is reasonably possible with another go, whole or at least in part, or (2) we've reached diminishing returns and it's time to take a break, or abandon the piece (which is a complex decision based on the overall vision for the album, and on an objective assessment of musical abilities). And if a major section of the piece is already very well covered, it's also important NOT to go over that section too many more times...which takes energy away from the other parts of the piece that still need work. All that said, in the rounds of editing I've ended using almost all whole takes anyway, because the continuity and flexibility is better. The more it can sound like a real, imaginative, straight-flowing performance, so much the better in the results. It's good if the various takes are NOT all the same as one another interpretively, because then there can be a range of choices available in the editing.

Which piece or movement to work on during a session? That's up to the musician(s) to decide, not for the producer to dictate that a good musical experience will take place at such-and-such a time and date on cue. Play the piece as long as the producer and musicians are able to do so without diminishing returns. Then let the musicians pick another piece from the roster that they feel like playing, next.

Then the producer and musicians have some months, later, to listen back through everything super-critically to see what works and what doesn't, in repetitive listening on all different sorts of equipment and situations. The same recording can sound remarkably different played against road noise or computer fans or on headphones or on a junk boombox. Lots of work, both with the score and without. Then a trial edit, possibly followed by refinements, iteratively until everybody's happy enough with it...or at least satisfied that it won't get much better, against the expense of tinkering further.

Others' mileage may vary, of course. I'm just reporting what I've found works well for me wearing these various hats. If somebody else is producing, I as a musician need the latitude to speak up, "Sorry, I can't do any more takes of that one at the moment," or "Hey, I wanna try that again no matter what, I just got a fresh idea to try something."

Or as producer I need to sense how the musicians are doing, fairly and objectively, to be able to say something helpful or inspiring that will get the best possible music onto the tape. Obsessive fault-finding or effusive praise are both NOT helpful in that regard; only a fair amount of enthusiasm and encouragement, as the producer is a quality-control listener and a musical coach, giving positive feedback when the musicianship seems especially inspiring, and offering careful correction or technical suggestions at problematic spots.

Sometimes in trying to get a certain several bars covered better, it's worthwhile to distract the musicians to start some 30 seconds earlier and concentrate on some other aspect altogether, then keep playing ahead until some other cadence past the problem point. The problem point in between might solve itself, without the musicians tensing up to try too hard to get it. The very best stuff might end up being in some of these patches that are ostensibly for some other purpose. Let the "right brain" do its job while the "left brain" worries about other things. (Recall the "Inner Game of Tennis" and "Inner Game of Music" books and strategy.....) For example, to get a clean passage across somebody's page , have them spread out two copies of the score across several music stands so there's no page turn...and then when they're focused on getting the page-turn bars cleanly, the other several bars on either side might have magic in them, usable later in the editing for musical reasons! Or, to get across a problematic spot the musicians might try a short passage by memory, to get a different part of the brain engaged in the attempt. It's also useful just to let the tape run during little practicing moments...that might be the cleanest take in itself, when it doesn't really count as an official take. :)

I recall attending a jazz concert by Andre Previn, Ray Brown, and Mundell Lowe. They walked out on stage and Previn made a few remarks, "We just got together after getting off the plane this morning, and we came up with this little pile of music that we MIGHT play for you...." Then they sat down and improvised their way through a terrific concert, playing whatever they felt like playing next, in the flow of the way that evening was going. Musicianship at some of its finest.

That's what (ideally, IMO) a produced recording should capture, too: letting the musicians do their job in a way that's comfortable and inspiring, and then sort out later how it fits onto the albums, sounding clean and fresh. That post-performance thought and sifting is a related but different art. Diminishing returns can come into the editing cycle, too. If the recording is fussed with too much, it can end up sounding either sterile or tense, too cautious...like a BORING concert that isn't engaging enough. Too regular, too "perfect", losing the humanity of musical performance. The balance of all this? Well, that's the challenge of it. These are difficult musical decisions and business decisions. How can the studio session time and editing time be put to most productive use, balancing the quality and quantity, and keeping reasonable expectations in the picture? (Filmmakers go through this same process, true? Generate enough takes and choices that a good-flowing product can be assembled later, with continuity and focus and vision, hopefully going beyond mere adequacy and into art and inspiration?)


Weak countertenor?

Tobias Bilsson wrote (September 8, 2005):
Today I read a review of the 24th volume of Bach cantatas, couducted by Gardiners, in which the reviewer complained about the countertenor on disc 2. No names were mentioned but the thing is that I don't trust the reviwer when it comes to baroque music. Any opinions?


John Eliot Gardiner: Short Biography | Monteverdi Choir | English Baroque Soloists
Recordings:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
General Discussions:
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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

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Last update: ýFebruary 3, 2006 ý09:35:47