BACH: Cantatas for the Feast of the Purification of Mary (BWV 82, 83, 125 & 200)
Robin Tyson, countertenor/Paul Agnew, tenor/Peter Harvey, bass/Monteverdi Choir/English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner, cond.

DGG ARCHIVE 463 585 (F) (DDD) TT:  68:59

Ah, those lucky Europeans. Throughout 2000, John Eliot Gardiner and his superb English Baroque Soloists along with the equally fine Monteverdi Choir are performing all the surviving church cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach in honor of the 250th anniversary of his death.  They will be performed in churches throughout Europe on the liturgical days for which they were composed.  

Thanks to Archiv, Bach enthusiasts can sample this important Bach cantata survey in this recent release containing four cantatas for the Feast of the Purification of Mary (February 2).

Bach based three of the four cantatas on Luke 2:22-32 with its acceptance of the joy of dying after receiving the love of Jesus.  Consequently, much of the music is joyous such as the aria"Hasten, heart, full of joyfulness" and "Joyous time of the new order" from Cantata BWV 83"Erfreute Zeit im neuen Bunda""Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin" (BWV 125), a chorale cantata based on a hymn by Martin Luther, features an especially contemplative aria superbly sung by countertenor Robin Tyson, and a spirited duet sung by tenor Paul Agnew and bass Peter Harvey.  However, there is nothing upbeat about"Ich habe genug" BWV 83 which is a complete outpouring of grief.

As is customary for today's back-to-basic-Bach period instrument interpretations, tempos are brisk, the traditional rise and fall of long phrases has be replaced by emphases on short musical ideas, and the chorales are accented and detached to differentiate (I guess) between your average congregation and the experienced church choir, which would emphasize legato and the long line. As in previous CD releases by John Eliot Gardiner and the excellent Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists, performances are first-rate. Highly recommended!

K.S. (Nov. 2000)