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Bach: Cantatas, Vol. 1

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - EJ Johnson
This superb two-disc set is the first release in John Eliot Gardiner's complete Bach cantata series, which is planned to reach 51 volumes. Originally, the cycle was to be issued on Deutsche Grammophon, but that label balked at the ambitious project and released only a few of the cantatas, so Gardiner formed his own outfit to make the complete set available his label is called Soli Deo Gloria -- to the glory of God alone -- after the postscript that Bach scribbled on each of his manuscripts. The recordings stem from Gardiner's remarkable pilgrimage in the year 2000, in which he led performances of each of Bach's more than 200 surviving cantatas on the feast days for which ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - EJ Johnson
This superb two-disc set is the first release in John Eliot Gardiner's complete Bach cantata series, which is planned to reach 51 volumes. Originally, the cycle was to be issued on Deutsche Grammophon, but that label balked at the ambitious project and released only a few of the cantatas, so Gardiner formed his own outfit to make the complete set available his label is called Soli Deo Gloria -- to the glory of God alone -- after the postscript that Bach scribbled on each of his manuscripts. The recordings stem from Gardiner's remarkable pilgrimage in the year 2000, in which he led performances of each of Bach's more than 200 surviving cantatas on the feast days for which they were written. The present set collects the cantatas for the Feast of St. John the Baptist and the first Sunday after Trinity, both late-spring/early-summer events with three extant cantatas each. The performances are never less than excellent and are often riveting; Gardiner's instrumentalists are the cream of the early music crop, and the five soloists -- sopranos Joanne Lunn and Gillian Keith, alto Wilke te Brummelstroete, tenor Paul Agnew, and bass Dietrich Henschel -- form a first-class band of singers. Agnew and Henschel may be the finest of the lot, which is just as well, as they are put to work the most. Agnew impresses in his aria in the fire-and-brimstone Cantata 20, where the phrase "flames that burn forever" draws rapid, intense melismas. Later in that same cantata, Henschel teams up with the nimble trumpeter Mark Bennett for the rousing aria "Wacht auf" -- a set highlight. The chorus, too, acquits itself brilliantly, especially in the chorale fantasia that opens Cantata 7 and in the pathos-filled opener to Cantata 39. Gardiner is alert to the popular dance rhythms that enliven many of Bach's arias, and his performances benefit, achieving a warmth and grace that is far from the leaden seriousness of some rivals. A charming example arrives with the lilting alto aria of Cantata 30, with its syncopated flute melody and swinging bass line. "It is the perfect riposte to those who might claim...that Bach is dull and heavy," Gardiner asserts. Still, the composer offers plenty of opportunities for drama, particularly in the Trinity cantatas, and Gardiner and company never fail to make the music come thrillingly alive. The book-form packaging is a model, with an incongruous yet striking photo of an Afghan man on the cover bearded and turban-topped, he appears to have stepped straight out the pages of the Old Testament. Full texts and translations, as well as Gardiner's informative notes, complete this rewarding and thoroughly enjoyable opening volume.
All Music Guide - James Manheim
Conductor John Eliot Gardiner, said England's Independent newspaper, "has had the last laugh" -- Vol. 1 of his Bach cantata series was named Record of the Year at the 2005 Classic FM Gramophone Awards in London, after the big Deutsche Grammophon label pulled out of the project and dropped Gardiner just before it got underway in 2000. No doubt a bit of gloating is appropriate along with justified satisfaction in a tough job well done -- Gardiner and his Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists undertook a "Bach cantata pilgrimage," singing all of Bach's cantatas on their liturgically appropriate dates while making a grand tour of acoustically appropriate European churches, many of them with links to the original circumstances in which Bach worked. The recordings, Gardiner said, were "a corollary of the concerts, not their raison d'être" prior to each night's concert, engineers recorded the final rehearsal in situ. By the time these recordings were made in London, the concert series was well under way, and, in the words of bass Dietrich Henschel, the performers "had become spiritually familiar with one another." The results, issued on Gardiner's own SDG label, fully live up to the awards hype. Gardiner's interpretations, though they fall under the historical-performance classification, are personal, subjective, dramatic, and romantic. The program naturally coheres thanks to the common origins of the works in the phases of the liturgical year around which Bach organized his thinking six cantatas are presented on two discs, three for the Feast of St. John the Baptist in mid-June and three for the first Sunday after Trinity, and every element of the sumptuous booklet presentation contributes to an appreciation of Bach's religious language, as audiences in German churches of the eighteenth century would have understood it. So Gardiner has indeed had the last laugh. But perhaps he would be the first to concede that the difficult birth of this project helped him push classical music toward its future, and even that the music is perhaps better, more urgent, than it might otherwise have been. In place of what would have been a series of implacably standardized albums on Deutsche Grammophon, we will now have releases that are individual, committed, and free. Gardiner's liner notes are taken from journals he wrote during the Bach pilgrimage, and they help bring home the immediacy and excitement of this project. The next step, as recordings like this move online, will be to turn this kind of journal into a blog. The old superstructure of the classical recording industry is collapsing into ruin, but this recording provides some of the clearest testimony yet that new and exciting small enterprises will fill the void.
Gramophone - Andrew Farach-Colton
[2005 Record of the Year] SDG's presentation is first class.... As for the interpretations, they are consistently fine -- often superb, in fact.
Classic FM Magazine - David A. Threasher
[March 2005 Disc of the Month] The performers’ belief in the music is palpable, from the rock-solid choral singing to the sinuous obbligato instrumental solos.... Whatever your religious beliefs, you’ll find yourself becoming increasingly involved with the music-making on these discs. This music, when performed with such evident integrity, sweeps you into its world.

[2005 Record of the Year] SDG's presentation is first class.... As for the interpretations, they are consistently fine -- often superb, in fact.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 5/10/2005
  • Label: Soli Deo Gloria
  • UPC: 843183010127
  • Catalog Number: 101

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1–5 Cantata No. 167, "Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe," BWV 167 (BC A176) - Johann Sebastian Bach & Paul Agnew (18:23)
  2. 6–12 Cantata No. 7 "Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam," BWV 7 (BC A177) - Johann Sebastian Bach & Paul Agnew (22:26)
  3. 13–24 Cantata No. 30, "Freue dich, erlöste Schar," BWV 30 (BC A178) - Johann Sebastian Bach & Paul Agnew (33:01)
Disc 2
  1. 1–14 Cantata No. 75, "Die Elenden sollen essen," BWV 75 (BC A94) - Johann Sebastian Bach & Paul Agnew (29:22)
  2. 15–21 Cantata No. 39, "Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot," BWV 39 (BC A96) - Johann Sebastian Bach & English Baroque Soloists (21:05)
  3. 22–32 Cantata No. 20, "O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort," BWV 20 (BC A95) - Johann Sebastian Bach & Paul Agnew (23:46)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
John Eliot Gardiner Primary Artist
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