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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 - 1750)
Cantatas for Ascension Day
Gott fähret auf mit Jauchen BWV 43 [18.02]
Auf Christi Himmelfahrt allein BWV 128* [16.30]
Wer da gläubet und getauft wird BWV 37 [15.30]
Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen BWV 11 [28.13]
Oratorio for Ascension Day
Nancy Argenta (soprano)
Michael Chance, Robin Blaze* (counter-tenors)
Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Christopher Genz* (tenors)
Stephen Varcoe, Reinhard Hagen* (basses)
The Monteverdi Choir,
The English Baroque Soloists,
Sir John Eliot Gardiner
DDD Recorded 10/93 (BWV 11,37,43). 4/99 (BWV 128)
Archiv 463 583-2 [78.30]

There are two things that almost anyone remotely interested in music must be aware of - that the year 2000 is the 250th anniversary of Bach's death and that under John Eliot Gardiner all of Bach's surviving Church Cantatas are to be performed live in various settings around Europe on the days for which they were written. Inevitably recording releases are being linked with the performances, but this CD is not a live recording and was in the main taped as long ago as 1993.

There is inevitably a great deal of Bach's music about this year, and as a reviewer, quite a lot has come my way. What has pleased and to a certain extent surprised me has been the remarkably high standard of performance from some fairly obscure sources. With John Eliot Gardiner, of course, one can assume a high standard. He and his team of the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists - as usual with their authentic instruments - have been together for a while now and the benefits of a long association show.

The contents of this disc are three Cantatas and an Oratorio written for use on Ascension Day - the Thursday forty days after Easter. All the Cantatas were written during Bach's time in Leipsig during the period 1724 - 1726, while the Oratorio "Lobet Gott " dates from 1735. They are not performed on the recording in the sequence of composition.

BWV 43 (1726) has a two part text setting praising the King of Kings. Bach's wry humour may have had a hand in the choice of his text following Royal help down on earth when King Augustus II applied pressure to ensure that Bach was paid some money owing to him as fees. That little tale is included in an excellent booklet note by Ruth Tatlow as well as a fascinating tale as to why BWV 37 has 283 bars.

The two groups of soloists (the 1999 recording had different personnel) are in fine fettle throughout the entire disc. The Canadian, Nancy Argenta, is at her best in the Oratorio Aria Jesu, deine Gnadenblicke - with some gorgeous woodwind playing in support. In the Chorale Herr Gott Vate in BWV 37, sung not by the normal chorus, she is joined by counter-tenor (Michael Chance), who then shows the range and elasticity of his voice in the Aria Ich sehe schon. Anthony Rolfe Johnson with his impeccable diction and control shows in Ja Tausand mal tausand why he is so highly regarded and so much in demand. Stephen Varcoe handles a rapid Er ists in BWV 43 with ease and confirms elsewhere that previous hearings elsewhere have not mislead as to his excellence. The three soloists in BWV 128 had less chance to shine. As for the Monteverdi Choir - what a splendid group they are.

Tempi throughout were admirable chosen - generally on the brisk side and the recording first rate. There is no reason whatsoever for anyone to whom the works appeal not to buy this splendid disc.


Harry Downey

Comments. There is no reason whatsoever for anyone to whom the works appeal not to buy this splendid disc.


Harry Downey

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