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John Eliot Gardiner & Monteverdi Choir & English Baroque Soloists
Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works
General Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

JEG Performances

Ken Nielsen wrote (December 9, 1999):
Does anyone know where there is a schedule to the John Eliot Gardiner performances of JSB cantatas that he is planning to do throughout Europe next year? It was to be a very full program, but I've heard nothing recently.

Aryeh Oron wrote (December 9, 1999):
You can see the planned schedule in the following URL: http://www.monteverdi.co.uk/bachcantata.html

Harry Steinman wrote (December 9, 1999):
I also have a copy of the JEG schedule for USA performances...not Bach unfortunately, if you're interested.

 

Gardiner cantata project

Rien Pranger wrote (December 25, 1999):
Bach didn't die on July 31st 1750 but on July 28th 1750. On that day I will be in Leipzig with two friends.

John Downes wrote (December 25, 1999):
The Gardiner cantata project is doing a commemorative concert in Iona that day, performing cantatas numbers;

BWV 161 Komm der susse Todesstunde
BWV 106 Actus Tragicus
BWV 131 Aus der Tiefe
BWV 53 Sclage doch
BWV 118 O Jesu Christ meins lebens licht

Iona is most definitely NOT the easiest place to get to. In fact I'm not even sure where it is. But I'm going to do my best to get there.

As an aside, I have procured tickets for the Milan performance on 22/23 January, and also my local event at Southwell on 27 Feb.

Billy Kitson wrote (December 25, 1999):
THE news is all Bad - IONA is about as far from Civilization as possible && still in Britain! It is a very remote island off a very remote part of Scotland! SCOTS worship the place! Ancient Kings of Scots are buried there - in summer it is reputed to be 1 degree above freezing ONCE per year!

 

Gardiner on BBC - Radio 3

Jane Newble wrote (January 24, 2000):
For those who can get Radio 3 from Britain (I remember I used to be able to get it in Holland but that may be the limit....): On Tuesday-evening (25 January) John Elliot Gardiner is on at 7.30 (British time) with 3 cantatas, BWV 155, BWV 3, BWV 13, and also BWV 227.

Also, every Sunday afternoon is 'Bach-Year', an hour of unknown delights. Yesterday it was at 16.45 about recordings of the Brandenburgs (everything from Wendy Carlos and Karajan to Trevor Pinnock), and next week, same time, it will be Bach the dramatist. On Sunday-mornings it appears that they are doing a cantata at 10.30.

Billy Kitson wrote (January 24, 2000):
Everyone is "jumping on the Bach Band wagon" Australia is to get 2 Hours of Bach on a Saturday Morn from 0800 on ABC FM Radio - don't think it goes to Europe, the UK or the US of A? Kiwis & Fuzzy Wuzzies perhaps?

Harry Steinman wrote (January 18, 2000):
Thanks for the heads-up. It looks to me like Radio 3 is available on the Internet. I think I'm listening to it right this moment. If I've got it correctly, anybody could listen to the station to hear JEG or to the Bach Year programs that Jane's referring to. Go to www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/
Now, if I can only remember how many hours Boston is from London...

Matthew Westphal wrote (January 25, 2000):
Five.

Ryan Michero wrote (January 25, 2000):
Since Archiv won't be releasing Gardiner's live performances on CD's, make sure everyone has their recording devices ready. And since I live in Dallas where they won't be broadcasting this stuff, I would be happy to negotiate with people on the list that could provide copies for me. Compact Disc format would be ideal, but I'd also consider analog cassette and Mini-Disk.

The broadcast comes on in about an hour now, so get ready everyone!

Kirk McElhearn wrote (January 26, 2000):
According to an ad in the French magazine Diapason, there will be 12 CD's released, some of them recorded live, and some of cantatas that have been already recorded.

 

Gardiner/Bach Tour

Enrico Bortolazzi wrote (January 25, 2000):
The JEG tour started on last Saturday from Milan with BWV 72, BWV 73, BWV 111, BWV 156 (replay on Sunday). All the cantatas are for this liturgical period, so Gardiner is probably following the calendar, as announced. I know from an Italian news-group that Carlo Gerelli was there; if Carlo is still member of this list probably he can write something for us. I'm waiting for the broadcasting of the concert, probably next month, on radiotre. Where is the next station? Let's follow JEG in his tour: according to initial promises from these concerts we will have the CD's. The fact that the same concert was given two times in the same place let me suppose that at end they will choose the best performance for CD recording.

John Downes wrote (January 25, 2000):
I attended this concert on the Saturday. Very good music. Packed audience with many standing. There was a mobile recording van and bright lights so it was obviously being recorded for something or other.

I very much liked the Baritone soloist, whose name I do not have at the moment. Also the alto singer, female but sounded like a boy's voice. The other two soloists were less impressive.

The clearest impression of the evening was of the sheer didacticism of the settings. When you get to hear 4 Cantatas in one evening each for the same day of the liturgical year you leave with the feeling that the text for the day has been thoroughly explored and explained.

His next two dates are in the UK (Christchurch and Romsey), Naarden (near Amsterdam) on 20th Feb and Southwell (Notts) on 27th.

Carlo Gerelli wrote (January 28, 2000):
Enrico, I'm sorry I was able to read your post only this evening. I will try to translate a resume of my post on news://it.arti.musica.classica about that concert, that I enjoyed very much, though I did not expected so much, being a bit pre-biased against Gardiner's Bach. Anyway, I've been very happy to change my mind during the performance: almost everything was perfect (except the tenor Julian Podger, IMHO definitely under the concert's standard). All four Cantatas performed (BWV 72, BWV 73, BWV 111, BWV 156) are related to the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany, and the common feeling in them is the surrender to God's will. Even in the title of three of four the word "will" appears, and also the music is somehow built around this conceptual crux. Listening to the concert I got the strong impression that Gardiner must have worked a lot to prepare this tour, particularly with his instrumental ensemble, who seconds its conductor with great skill. I just would like to remember the bass air in BWV 73 "Herr, so du willt" in which the pictorial effect of the tired human limbs turning to ashes and dust was realized by Gardiner with extreme sensitiveness, almost bringing the music to proceed to silence in a very smooth way. Another great moment of the concert was the wonderful introductory symphony to BWV 156 (who brings the happy title "Ich stehe mit einem fuss in Grabe" - "I stand with one foot in the grave") with the solo oboe playing one of the most moving largo in all Bach production (the same of the concert BWV 1056). The choir was also great (as usual), good were the soprano Joanna Lunn and Italian alto Sara Mingardo. I liked very much also the bass Stephen Varcoe, not so much the tenor ... We will have in Milan in the same series (next months) Koopman and Bruggen too. I am personally also eager to see Helmuth Rilling (it would be the first time for me).

Please forgive me for the length (and for my poor English).

Armagan Ekici wrote (February 21, 2000):
I am just back home from the Dutch stop of the Cantata Pilgrimage inNaarden.

The program was:
BWV 144 Nimm, was dein ist, und gehe hin
Motet BWV 227: Jesu, meine Freude
BWV 84 Ich bin vergnugt mit meinem Glucke
BWV 92 Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn

Miah Persson, soprano
Wilke te Brummesltre, alto
James Oxley, tenor
John Bowley, bass

It was overall a very successful performance. The cantatas were more idiomatic than typical Gardiner-esque fast, bright, a bit impersonal performances we know from their CD's. I especially enjoyed the Motet a lot, where the Monteverdi Choir's grasps on dynamic contrasts were used very strong effect. The Swedish soprano Miah Persson was made to steal the scene (with the solo cantata and a soprano aria as a bis) and I believe we will be hearing (and seeing) more of her soon.

As a result it seems that formidable competition is coming from JEG to Suzuki and Koopman in this year's cantata releases. Combining the clues on DG web site, BBC Music Magazine and the tour brochure, I believe this is what is going to happen:

Live recordings from the Pilgrimage
Vol.3: Third Sunday after Epiphany - BWV 73, 111, 72, 156 from Milan
Vol.6: Purification of the Blessed Virgin - BWV 82, 83, 125, 200 from Christchurch
Vol.11: 9th Sunday after Trinity - BWV 94, 105, 168 from Rendburg
Vol.12: 14th Sunday after Trinity - BWV 25, 78, 17 from Ambronay

New studio recordings:
Vol.1: Easter cantatas - BWV 6, 66
Vol.4: Ascension cantatas - BWV 11, 37, 43, 128
Vol.5: Whitsun cantatas - BWV 34, 59, 74, 172
Vol.7: 16, 98, 139
Vol.10: Christmas cantatas - BWV 63, 64, 121, 133

Re-releases
Vol.2: Actus Tragicus (BWV 106), Trauerode (BWV 198) etc.
Vol.8: BWV 140, 147
Vol.9: Advent - BWV 36, 61, 62

Ken Nielsen wrote (February 21, 2000):
I haven't been able to find the concert diary anywhere. I emailed the choir's office without reply. Does anyone know where the diary is?

Armagan Ekici wrote (February 21, 2000):
Yes! I finally did it:
http://home.wxs.nl/~ekici000/bach2000/Pilgrimage.htm
This is based on the tour brochure I received today.

Ryan Michero wrote (February 21, 2000):
(Miah Persson) I adore Persson. She is featured on some of Suzuki's recent recordings (Cantatas Vol.10 and Magnificat), that I highly recommend.

 

Gardiner's Cantata Pilgrimage and the corresponding CD releases

Ryan Michero wrote (February 8, 2000):
News for cantata lovers:

There is info on DG's site now for Gardiner's Cantata Pilgrimage and the corresponding CD releases.

The CD's are:

463 580-2 Easter Cantatas BWV 6 · 66
463 581-2 Funeral Cantatas BWV 106 (Actus Tragicus) · 118b · 198
463 582-2 Cantatas BWV 72 · 73 · 250 · 111 · 156
463 583-2 Ascension Cantatas BWV 11 · 37 · 43 · 128
463 584-2 Whitsun Cantatas BWV 34 · 59 · 74 · 172
463 585-2 Cantatas BWV 82 · 83 · 125 · 200
463 586-2 Cantatas BWV 16 · 98 · 139
463 587-2 Cantatas BWV 140 · 147
463 588-2 Advent Cantatas BWV 36 · 61 · 62
463 589-2 Christmas Cantatas BWV 63 · 64 · 121 · 133
463 590-2 Cantatas BWV 94 · 105 · 168
463 591-2 Cantatas BWV 17 · 25 · 78

No release dates are mentioned.

The list covers a lot of good ones, for certain. I'm a little disappointed, though, those three discs worth are devoted to reissues of previously available Gardiner cantata discs (Advent Cantatas, Funeral Cantatas, and 140/147). I'm not surprised though. What? BWV 80? Or BWV 1? Or 161? Or 65? Or 104? (At least we have BWV 105 and 78 to console us. :)

Additional information, including a schedule of upcoming concerts, is available at:
http://www.deutschegrammophon.com/
(Click on the Cantata Pilgrimage icon at the bottom).

 

Cantata commerce

John Downes wrote:
I was at the Kings College Cambridge JEG performance last night and there was (as there has been on each of the 3 concerts I have so far attended) a recording van there.

The program said that the deal with Archiv was that 12 CD's would be released to commemorate the series.

Ryan Michero wrote (March 7, 2000):
...but BWV 23 will not be included in any of the twelve releases according to the DG Website. http://www.deutschegrammophon.com/

Look out, sensitive readers--it's rant time:

DG, one of the largest and most prosperous labels in the classical music field, has apparently decided there is not enough interest in Gardiner's Bach performances to release all of the live recordings on disc as was originally intended. So, I suppose, they will be broadcast once or twice on the radio (only in Europe, of course, where people care about such music) and will then sit in DG's vaults for countless years until all of us are dead and finally somebody decides, "Oh, hey! We've got all of these live recordings of Gardiner doing Bach's cantatas--let's put them out!" Some of the people at DG will agree with this person, but most will not and they will decide to once again re-master and re-release their hoary old Karajan recordings, making sure every note the maestro ever recorded is constantly in print for future generations to hear and study.

And now we return to our regularly scheduled discussion...

Armagan Ekici wrote (March 8, 2000):
...I am also irritated that the first installment of the 12 CD's contain a paltry 45 minutes of music at full price, and 3 CD's of the 12 are re-releases of the old recordings. BWV6 in the first CD is great though, although the sound quality (a studio recording, mind you) is not at the standard we expect from DG/Archiv.

 

Bach Cantata Pilgrimage on Mar. 26

Shigeo Nambu wrote (March 22, 2000):
My friend plans to listen to the next The Bach Cantata Pilgrimage at Walpole St. Peter on Mar.26. But I hear ticket has been sold out. Is there anyone who has a spare ticket?

 

JEG video

Frank Fogliati wrote (May 16, 2000):
I remember watching the documentary "In rehearsal with John Elliot Gardiner" and noticing the sheer frustration and exasperation at times on the face of the first natural trumpeter. He kept looking across at JEG as if to say, "it can't be done!" It must be a difficult instrument to play.

Mark Mullins wrote (May 16, 2000):
Is it available on video? I'd love to see it.

Frank Fogliati wrote (May 21, 2000):
Yes it's a great video, offering an interesting insight into the build-up to the final recording session of BWV 63. From memory it's a BBC video. You may be able to track it down at their Website.

Armagan Ekici wrote (May 24, 2000):
I have just returned from seeing that video as part of "Classique & Images" series im Amsterdam Filmmuseum. It is indeed a great video, very enjoyable and my respect for JEG/Monteverdi Choir/EBS instantly doubled after I saw them in rehearsal! The only problem was the interviews were brutally translated into French with a voice-over.

It is not a BBC video but a ZDF-ARTE production, I wonder whether it is commercially available.

Also part of the show was a French TV program with Peter Ustinov doing an "impression" of a Bach cantata. I don't want to give away too much; it is hilarious, don't miss it if you happen to bump on it someday somehow.

 

JEG Bach Pilgrimage CD's

Galina Kolomietz wrote (May 30, 2000):
Does anybody have an opinion about John Eliot Gardiner's recordings from his Bach Pilgrimage tour? I just bought BWV 6 & BWV 66, and they are 'awful'! Michael Chance absolutely ruins BWV 66. What's happening to him? He sounds shrill and washed-out. Unfortunately, he gets a lot to sing. In the opening chorus ("Erfreut euch, ihr Herzen") his voice nearly cracks. Then there are two duets with Padmore and Chance is unbearable. I wish I could say that Padmore saves those duets, but I can't say that. He's okay, I guess, but way off his usual high standards (I'm irritated b/c he's my favorite tenor and I know how good he can be). They both sound like they just ran a 100m dash and didn't have time to catch their breath. Have these people lito what they recorded? To be sure, the sound engineers didn't help either (the recording is too close), but one wonders whether this should have been recorded at all. BWV 6 is a little better, but the choral sound isn't great either (except for the soprano chorale "Ach bleib bei uns"). Bernarda Fink got a good review from BBC Music, but I wasn't too impressed even with her contribution. Well, at least, she tried to offer an intelligent interpretation. I have no particular comment about the other soloists. Are all of JEG's Pilgrimage CD's this bad? Or are some of them worth buying?

Donald Satz wrote (June 2, 2000):
Watch out for the volume of funeral cantatas by Gardiner. It is the exact reissue of a 1990 Archiv release, but it's still at full price. Advertisements for the Pilgrimage CD's make no mention of this fact.

Overall, I haven't found the series to be very good. The vocal soloists used are not outstanding for the most part. I'm afraid that the "pilgrimage" theme is going to be the "calling card" for this series, not the performances.

Ryan Michero wrote (June 3, 2000):
And it's not even a very good recording, IMHO. The fact that it has been re-released in new packaging and still at full-price in this series is a perverse joke from the decision-makers at DG.

Ehud Shiloni wrote (June 5, 2000):
This particular CD is in fact a studio recording from April 1999, and not a live recording from the actual "pilgrimage" tour [notwithstanding that the venue was St John church in London].

DG/ARCHIV lists 12 CD's in the "Pilgrimage" series, but only eight of these will be from the live tour, while 3 CD's are re-issues of older recordings: The funeral cantatas [which Don and Ryan mentioned], the three Advent cantatas, and the one featuring 140&147.

AFAIK, the original intention was to record and release ALL the church cantatas, however it turned out that there are funding problems and the CD output was drastically reduced.

The entire project appears to be a DG "reject":
-The CD you mention holds only 48 minutes of music, at full price!
-The liner notes are dismal: Just two pages of commentary, and no listing of the singers and players [except the soloists]
-The graphic art is minimal and looks almost cheap [Possibly a novel marketing approach: "Sub-Nexus look at DG full prices" - I bet vendors may have difficulties holding back the crowds of enthused buyers!]

And now about the music on this first CD:

The opening chorus of BWV 6 is a personal favorite, so I was looking forward to hear the results of the JEG effort. My opinion: nothing to write home about - JEG adds nothing to other existing versions, and falls way short of the majestic [though very slow] performance of old Fritz Werner on Erato. For me this was quite a let-down, because I was hoping for something special from the king of drama, recalling his highly effective great choral works recordings from the 80's.

Other than that, I agree with you that Michael Chance at the turn of the millenium is unfortunately not the same singer of the eighties either.

But hope springs eternal: I will most likely buy all the live "pilgrimage" CD's as they are released, waiting for a magical "home run" performance, as may happen some time in live concerts.

Ben Mullins wrote (June 30, 2000):
Galina Kolomietz wrote:
< Does anybody have an opinion about John Eliot Gardiner's recordings from his Bach Pilgrimage tour? I just bought BWV 6 & BWV 66, and they are awful! Michael Chance absolutely ruins BWV 66. What's happening to him? He sounds shrill and washed-out. Unfortunately, he gets a lot to sing. In the opening chorus ("Erfreut euch, ihr Herzen") his voice nearly cracks. Then there are two duets with Padmore and Chance is unbearable. >
I don't think he's all that bad. As Ehud said, Chance certainly isn't the same singer he was when he recorded the B minor Mass and Passions with Gardiner in the 1980's! He is a bit shrill here and there. On a scale from 1-10 I think I would give him maybe a 5 or 6 (perhaps even a 7 if I'm in a generous mood).

< I wish I could say that Padmore saves those duets, but I can't say that. He's okay, I guess, but way off his usual high standards (I'm irritated b/c he's my favorite tenor and I know how good he can be). They both sound like they just ran a 100m dash and didn't have time to catch their breath. Have these people listened to what they recorded? To be sure, the sound engineers didn't help either (the recording is too close), but one wonders whether this should have been recorded at all. BWV 6 is a little better, but the choral sound isn't great either (except for the soprano chorale "Ach bleib bei uns"). Bernarda Fink got a good review from BBC Music, but I wasn't too impressed even with her contribution. Well, at least, she tried to offer an intelligent interpretation. I have no particular comment about the other soloists. Are all of JEG's Pilgrimage CD's this bad? Or are some of them worth buying? >
I'm not too familiar with Mr. Padmore, but I think he did alright. Now Ms. Bernarda Fink... Even before I was done listening to her aria in BWV 6 I had to pop in Christophe Coin's recording with Andreas Scholl to calm my nerves from Fink's nervous, wobbly vibrato. I have absolutely no problem with female altos in Bach's music, but constant, unremitting vibrato like that, I feel has no place in Bach or any other baroque music. The other soloists though were pretty good. The Monteverdi Choir was as usual very good. The one thing that I did find very distressing: the brass playing in BWV 66 was VERY weak. I consider the players in Gardiner's orchestras to be the best on period brass. However, the trumpets in BWV 66 sound unsure and distant. Certainly nothing like the brilliant playing in the 'Cum sancto spiritu' in Gardiner's B minor Mass recording! One the average a strangely mediocre recording, strange for Gardiner anyway. If I had a choice I don't think I would pay full price for it, and for 48 minutes of music at that? I hope the rest of the CD's are better than this one. If not, DG might as well scrap the whole "Pilgrimage" altogether...

Matthew Westphal wrote (July 3, 2000):
Ben Mullins wrote:
< I don't think [Michael Chance is] all *that* bad... [Snip] Now Ms. Bernarda Fink... Even before I was done listening to her aria in BWV 6 I had to pop in Christophe Coin's recording with Andreas Scholl to calm my nerves from Fink's nervous, wobbly vibrato. >
To my ears, Chance sounds (on this occasion) much more nervous and wobbly than Fink.

< The Monteverdi Choir was as usual very good. >
I found them (by their admittedly very high standards) rather sloppy.

< On the average a strangely mediocre recording, strange for Gardiner anyway. If I had a choice I don't think I would pay full price for it, and for 48 minutes of music at that? I hope the rest of the CD's are better than this one. If not, DG might as well scrap the whole "Pilgrimage" altogether... >
DG has already recorded all the Pilgrimage CD's (they did so before the Pilgrimage concerts started) and is probably obligated by contract to release them. Luckily, Vol.3 is much better than Vol.1.

 

JEG Cantata cycle, 2 extra UK dates/Last night

John Downes wrote (May 16, 2000):
For those in the UK, you might be interested to learn that this coming weekend JEG, who was originally scheduled to be performing in Poland on these dates, is now performing in St Paul's Birmingham (Saturday) and St Mary's Warwick on Sunday. Same repertoire both dates, I'm gong on Sunday.

John Downes wrote (May 22, 2000):
Bach Recordings Venue; St. Mary's, Warwick
Repertoire:
BWV 166, Wo gehest du hin?
BWV 108, Er ist euch gut, Dass ich hingehe
BWV 117, Sei Lob und Ehr dem hochsten Gut

I am sorry to have to relate to those unfortunates who could not make it to Warwick last night that it just doesn't get any better than this. Just wonderful playing and singing. There were, as always, recording vans there lasnight, so it's definitely one to look out for.

 

Continue on Part 3

John Eliot Gardiner: Short Biography | Monteverdi Choir | English Baroque Soloists
Recordings of Vocal Works:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Videos | Recordings of Instrumental Works
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Newsletters
Cantatas:
Cantatas BWV 106, 118b, 198 | Cantatas BWV 140, 147 | Cantatas BWV 11, 37, 43, 128 | Cantatas BWV 6, 66 | Cantatas BWV 72, 73, 111, 156 | Cantatas BWV 82, 83, 125, 200
Bach Cantata Pilgrimage:
BCP - Vols 1&8 | BCP - Vol. 6 | BCP - Vol. 9 | BCP - Vol. 13 | BCP - Vol. 14 | BCP - Vol. 15 | BCP - Vol. 21 | BCP - Vol. 22 | BCP - Vol. 23 | BCP - Vol. 24 | BCP - Vol. 26 | Bach Cantata Pilgrimage DVD | DVD John Eliot Gardiner in Rehearsal
Other Vocal Works:
BWV 232 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 244 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 245 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 248 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 1127 - J.E. Gardiner
Table of recordings by BWV Number

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