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The Bach Cantata Pilgrimage


Clavecin
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Yes I know they're not organ music, but I thought I knew Bach fairly well 'til I started collecting these wonderful CDs.

 

If you've not discovered them yet, they are John Eliot Gardiner's Monteverdi Choir/English Baroque Soloists on his own record label 'Soli Deo Gloria'.

All live recordings from a variety of European venues and New York. I am listening to 'Erfreut euch, ihr Herzen BWV 66' as I write this.

 

There are so many beautiful arias and fantastic concerted chorale settings that it's impossible to single-out any particular item, and some first rate soloist; in particular Mark Padmore, Elin Manahan Thomas and Nathalie Stutzmann. The performances are totally committed and have that real 'live frisson'. I would have dearly liked to have heard one of the UK concerts, did anyone attend one?

 

There's always a volume on top of the CD player.

The problem you may find is that if you buy one, you'll end up buying the lot!

 

DT

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I'm afraid I've been hooked for a couple of years now. They are on my ipod and are on almost constant play. I avidly await each release and they are all of an excellent standard.

 

Like the London bus syndrome, barely a cycle for decades, then Koopman, Gardiner and that Japanese chap all at the same time.

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Like the London bus syndrome, barely a cycle for decades, then Koopman, Gardiner and that Japanese chap all at the same time.

Not to mention the set in the Brilliant Bach Box (£80 at Blackwells), conducted by Leusink and recorded in under a year (Brilliant were expecting to put Rilling's set in their box, but that fell through at a late stage, and so they had to get a new recording done really fast to catch the anniversary year!). It's actually pretty good overall, and my favourite for some works - certainly it's done Brilliant's reputation a lot of good. Bizzarely, the first movement of BWV 69 is missing, even though the words are in the booklet*. It's not one to a part (except 106), but it's an all-male chorus. There's a home-spun feel to some of it which I dare say was probably present in many of Bach's performances too!

 

Paul

 

* Harnoncourt omitted the movement because he had already recorded it as part of 69a - Leusink presumably followed him without realising why he done it!

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I took part in a lot of these recordings (the Cantata Pilgrimage). The live recording process was really quite hairy. We were on the road continuously for a year, rehearsing and performing. DG were supposed to record the whole thing, but they pulled out at a late stage, and the Lottery refused to support the project (too elitist...), so money was very tight. One or two of the later weekends had to be reined in (Riga and Tallinn became Salisbury, for instance) It was decided to record everything live, and pre-patch on the afternoon of each concert, in the hope of eventually finding a buyer. Various attempts fell through, and so the own-label concept of SDG was the only way forward: one man and a dog, and very limited studio time. It has, however, sold very well, and I think must be counted a great success. The most astounding concert of all was the one that wasn't recorded: in Iona, on Bach's death day, 106, Kuhnau's 'Der Gerechte Komm um' arranged by Bach, 118 played outside with the wind whipping the music into the sea in the setting sun. Extraordinary.

 

A large continuo organ was made for the project by Robin Jennings, with a metal 4ft Principal and Silbermann-style case. It is a great instrument, and has been carted all over the world in the past six years.

 

Paul

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I took part in a lot of these recordings (the Cantata Pilgrimage).

 

Sounds like the experience of a lifetime. I noticed you listed in the tenor section.

 

I'm also a big fan of Harry Christophers and The Sixteen, I've got several of their CDs and been to their 'choral pilgrimage' concerts for the past few years, they're usually my concert highlight of the year.

 

It would be really good if JEG could do the same sort of thing and take a set of Bach Cantatas on a UK concert series. I realise that there would be the additional cost of orchestra and soloists though. Harry Christophers certainly seems to have carved out a real niche for himself (the concerts are all extremely well attended), I'm sure a JEG/Bach tour would be even more popular. I buy my CDs from MDT, the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage CDs are always their monthly best sellers when each is released.

 

Thanks for the post, I found it very interesting.

 

DT

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