Magazine article Gramophone

'Cantatas, Vol 12: Tooting/Winchester'

Magazine article Gramophone

'Cantatas, Vol 12: Tooting/Winchester'

Article excerpt

'Cantatas, Vol 12: Tooting/Winchester'

Cantatas Nos 52, 55, 60, 89, 115, 139, 140 & 163

Susan Hamilton, Gillian Keith, Joanne Lunn sops Hilary Summers contr Robin Tyson counterten James Gilchrist, William Kendall tens Peter Harvey bass Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists/ Sir John Eliot Gardiner

Soli Deo Gloria (2) SDG171 (141' * DDD * T/t) Recorded live at All Saints, Tooting, November 17, 2000 & Winchester Cathedral, November 26, 2000

'Cantatas, Vol 18: Weimar/Leipzig/Hamburg'

Cantatas Nos 32, 63, 65, 123, 124, 154 & 191

Magdalena Kozena, Claron McFadden sops Sally Bruce-Payne, Bernarda Fink altos Michael Chance counterten Christoph Genz, James Gilchrist tens Peter Harvey, Dietrich Henschel basses Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists/Sir John Eliot Gardiner

Soli Deo Gloria (2) SDG174 (131' * DDD * T/t) Recorded live at Herderkirche, Weimar, December 25, 1999; Nikolaikirche, Leipzig, January 6, 2000; Hauptkirche St Jacobi, Hamburg, January 9, 2000

Ten years on and we can now relive every second of an unrepeatable musical marathon. Celebrating the new millennium (and the 250th anniversary of Bach's death), the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage divided the 190-odd cantatas among 50 venues in a year long project that seems more improbable by the day. That there should be a significantly durable recorded legacy from a journey whose schedule was so uniquely exacting is doubly astonishing.

These last two volumes close the story -or not quite, because Gardiner is, somewhere in the half-light of his busy existence, writing a book about Bach. But there will be no more exotic pictures adorning those satisfying black books full of Gardiner's weaving diary, Richard Stokes's enlightened translations and an endless supply of musical surprises. This is a classic tale of turning adversity to advantage. Would the Pilgrimage have been improved had Deutsche Grammophon stuck with the project? Would DG have made more consistent use of classy solo singers? The answer to the first question is certainly 'no', and probably both 'yes' and 'no' for the second.

Let's recall that the era of 'going it alone ' in recording was already, by 2000, dawning on artistic institutions as a very serious and sensible option. The only problem with Sir John Eliot Gardiner's cantata legacy is the kind of untidiness one associates with versions of Bruckner symphonies. There are 14 cantatas from the Pilgrimage year on DG but assembled alongside a number of earlier studio recordings, confusingly, under the banner of the 'Pilgrimage', including four cantatas which--strictly speaking--didn't appear within the time-frame of the project. Then

there are another 14 works which, repeated 'on tour', double up on earlier DG performances (not counting an Advent disc from 1987). And, most mysteriously, seven cantatas, Nos 29, 119, 120, 157, 195, 196 and 197, which don't appear at all --anywhere. Finally, there are three works (Nos 106, 118 and 198) from much earlier releases (arguably 'sui generis' works). Oh, for some coherence and co-operation in bringing this unholy mess together!

It was through this project that Soli Deo Gloria became the chronicling arm of Gardiner and his choir and orchestra. Imaginative contractual flexibility and the enterprising Isabella, Gardiner's creative and able producing wife, resulted in 27 releases.

The pattern of variability in the performances throughout the series is reflected in these two final volumes from Weimar to Winchester, though the wonder is the high ratio of compelling results to the less satisfying. …

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