CD Reviews | CTD (Briefly Noted) | JFL (Dip Your Ears) | DVD Reviews


The Birth of BWV 1127

available at Amazon
J.S.Bach, Alles Mit Gott...,
J.E.Gardiner / E.B.S., Monteverdi Choir

Alongside the 4th issue of Sir John Eliot Gardiner's Pilgrimage Cantata cycle on his own label, Soli Deo Gloria, SDG also issued the promised recording of "Alles mit Gott und nichts ohn' ihn" - the Birthday Ode for Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Saxe-Weimar from 1713, which Michael Maul found this June in the Duchess Anna Amalia Library. It has been the most important Bach discovery since the 30s, and it has gotten a warm-hearted recording from Gardiner. Few, if any, living conductors have more passionately and sucessfully tended to Bach's choral works and performance practice than he; apart from Helmut Rilling and perhaps Masaaki Suzuki, who have so firmly devoted their career to the composer of composers.

As other critics have already said, it is a charming little thing - indeed, that phrase so immediately comes to mind that those who hear it and describe it thus are exempt from the charge of plagiarism. It is genuinely lovely and wonderful to hear - as is most or indeed all Bach. I could also say that it is wonderful to discover 'new music' composed by Bach - but that would be disingenuous, given that very few people already have exhausted the Bach œuvre as extant prior to last June. There are less expensive ways to listen to four minutes of novel Bach, although the listening participation is exciting... hearing sounds of Bach that have not been heard by anyone else for almost 300 years.

Gardiner plays through the ode three times, including the first, last (12th), and third stanzas. Soprano Elin Manahan Thomas sings her part with a very clear voice - a slim golden shimmer that arches above the music. It's on the harder side with a strong edge, and the application is refreshingly unmannered. She is accompanied by two violins and one viola, cello and lute each; Silas John Standage plays the organ.

What follows, after these 12 minutes, are excerpts from the hitherto unreleased Cantata Pilgrimage recordings. They only assure me of what I knew already, that this is a cycle eminently worth following for its natural, honest, and thoroughly musical approach to these cantatas. Little to nothing is stylized, there are no glaring weaknesses among the soloists, and the playing is beyond reproach and the chorus exquisite. Essentially a luxurious sampler of the cycle, this CD might have been priced more moderately than the rather steep $22, but for the duration of this disc (about one hour) no listener would likely think about the cost.

See also:

Dip Your Ears, No. 40 & Dip Your Ears, No. 35

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ah, this is terrible. I want it - I shouldn't... And your review reinforces my ambiguity, too. You understand (I think) if I say: "Bin nun so kloug als wie zuvor", right?
Will have to bit the Bach-bullet and indulge, I think.