- Cantata No. 140, "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme," BWV 140
- Cantata No. 147, "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben," BWV 147 (BC A174)
John Eliot Gardiner's ambitious Bach cantata survey has produced some unexpected delights. His recording of the cantatas for Pentecost (or Whitsun) showcased the vibrato-filled voices of Magdalena Kozená and Bernarda Fink, atypical but highly effective choices for this repertory. Their lush vocal quality aptly captured the ecstasy and divine rapture expressed in those works. By contrast, the cantatas on this recording celebrate a state of solemn expectation. In Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, Christ is represented as a bridegroom and the Church as his bride. As that chaste and eager bride, Ruth Holton brings her vibratoless yet strangely intimate soprano to the beautiful duo "Wenn, kömmst du, mein Heil?" ("When comest Thou, my Savior?"). Hers is a most attractive voice that suffers from neither mannerism nor strain. Indeed, anyone who objected to the romantic vocal sound of Gardiner's Whitsun recording will take comfort in the entire vocal cast assembled here, from Michael Chance's warm and clear countertenor to Anthony Rolfe Johnson's malleable and unforced tenor. Johnson's musicianship shines in the recitatives, especially in his subtle reading of "Gebenedeiter Mund." The quiet joy of this recitative sets the tone for the cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, which includes perhaps the most famous of all Bach tunes: "Jesus bleibet meine Freude" ("Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring"). As with everything he has touched in this marvelous cantata series, Gardiner's performance of this perennial favorite is anything but perfunctory. His interpretation conveys a sense of wide-eyed, serene exhilaration, like that of a child hearing this music for the first time.