- Cantata No. 61, "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland," BWV 61
- Cantata No. 36, "Schwingt freudig euch empor," BWV 36
- Cantata No. 62, "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland," BWV 62 (BC A2)
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John Eliot Gardiner's exuberant recording of Bach's Advent cantatas -- "Schwingt freudig euch empor" (BWV 36) and two settings of "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland" (BWV 61 and 62) -- boasts what may be the most uniformly satisfying quartet of vocal soloists the conductor has yet assembled in his exhaustive survey of the composer's church cantatas. And since performances of this music sorely depend on the skill of the soloists, the presence of four intelligent singers, all endowed with warm and expressive voices, is no small potatoes. Among this embarrassment of vocal riches, the supple baritone of Olaf Bär stands out. Bär has made a name for himself in the German song repertory, and here he brings his lovingly exact text declamation to Bach's devotional words. Vocally and dramatically, he captures the spirit of the brief yet most memorable musical gem, the recitative "Siehe, ich stehe vor der Tür" (Behold, I stand at the door and knock), in which Bach evokes both the hushed knocking at a door and the pounding of the believer's heart. With the aria "Öffne dich, mein ganzes Herze" (Open up, my whole heart), the limpid soprano of Nancy Argenta, who has had so much success in baroque music, answers this knocking with humble zeal. Argenta joins mezzo-soprano Petra Lang in another highlight of this recording, the chorale duet "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland" (Come now, savior of the gentiles) -- a text of Martin Luther that serves as the basis for all three of these cantatas. One's only regret is that there aren't more opportunities here for Lang's distinctive and attractive voice to be heard. Rounding out the impressive solo roster is tenor Anthony Rolfe Johnson, whose elegant musicianship seems to elevate everything he sings.