- Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf, motet for double chorus, winds, strings & continuo, BWV 226 (BC C2)
- Komm, Jesu, komm, motet for chorus & continuo, BWV 229 (BC C3)
- Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden, motet for chorus & organ, BWV 230 (BC C6)
- Ich lasse dich nicht, motet for double chorus (after Johann Christoph Bach), BWV Anh. 159 (BC C9)
- Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, motet for chorus, BWV 225 (BC C1)
- Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir, motet for double chorus, BWV 228 (BC C4)
- Jesu, meine Freude, motet for 5-part chorus, BWV 227 (BC C5)
Bach: Motetsby John Eliot Gardiner
John Eliot Gardiner literally has a lifetime of intimate familiarity with J.S. Bach's six motets without independent instrumental accompaniment; he reports that as a boy chorister of 11 or 12 he knew the treble lines to all of them. That familiarity is evident in these exceptionally insightful and exceptionally well-sung performances with the Monteverdi Choir. The group lives up to its reputation as being in the very highest echelon of choirs worldwide, singing these especially treacherous works with almost superhuman precision, immaculate tone and balance, and infectious, unguarded passion. The singers handle Bach's exquisitely interwoven counterpoint with apparent ease even at the outrageously fast but emotionally appropriate tempos that Gardiner takes. He avoids the academic rigidity that can easily prevail in performances of counterpoint this intricate by always maintaining a dancing sense of lightness and buoyancy. The performances are also characterized by a warm intimacy. That's due at least in part the choir's remarkable control of dynamics; at its quietest moments the music comes across as an almost hushed whisper. That, in combination with the stellar engineering, creates the impression that the listener is being treated to a private performance by singers nearly close enough to reach out and touch. At the same time there is no sense of crowding and the performers have plenty of room for their singing to ring out brilliantly. Gardiner deploys a small continuo group colorfully but discreetly, offering an ideally balanced underpinning for the choir. Listeners who want to hear these small masterpieces need look no further than these exemplary and thoroughly engaging performances. Highly recommended.
- Release Date:
- Soli Deo Gloria
Performance CreditsJohn Eliot Gardiner Primary Artist
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Gardiner, Monteverdi Choir set standard for Bach Motets The motet format, considered basic and compulsory achievement for the Baroque era, reaches a pinnacle of excellence consistent with tradition through the work of the Monteverdi Choir under the direction of John Eliot Gardiner. This performance of Six Motets by J. S. Bach, recorded at St. John’s at Smith Square in London during October 2011, will stand as example and standard for choirs reaching for performance excellence. And it seems to be within easy reach for all in the choir. No section dominates, but when one states a motif, another answers equally; balance and expression are precise and perfectly timed. The familiar chorales with repetition, counterpoint, and embellishments bring fresh appreciation for the motet for four-part or six-part minimally accompanied choir. The clever cover illustration, inner cover, and unique booklet/case remind the audience that this group fully grasps the intricacies of this music. Parts share equally the clarity of line and lilt, elocution, and emotion in this stellar presentation of church music. The accompanying booklet notes by Sir Gardiner further explain the individual motets to enrich the enjoyment of the listener. This collection will be a valuable addition to the collection of a scholar, choir director, library, or general listener for the further appreciation of the genius of J.S. Bach.
The great BWV catalog of Bach's music groups six shorter vocal pieces together as "the motets," though scholars debate whether there may have been more of them, now lost. Unlike his major choral works and cantatas, there is no accompaniment provided for most of these, so there's no consensus about the use of instruments in their performance, either. All agree, however, that these brief pieces--apparently written for funeral or memorial services--display Bach's art in miniature. I always enjoy listening to the Monteverdi Choir, but I had to marvel at the lightness of some of the singing in this recording. (They make it sound so easy!) Although the music often seems to fly by, and there's a very dance-like feel to it, tempi are actually slower than Harnoncourt employs with a larger chorus. In addition to the canonical Six, Gardiner also includes "Ich lasse dich nicht," a less intricate work. This comes in the usual SDG hardcover album with texts and essays.