Gardiner brings out the best in Bach

Faultless direction from Sir John Gardiner brings out beautiful performances of Bach's cantatas

Composer: Bach
Repertoire: Cantatas, Vol. 18 
Artists: Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner
Rating:  3/5
Genre: Vocal
Label: Soli Deo Gloria SDG 174

The Music: Here are two cantatas for Christmas Day, two for Epiphany and three for the following Sunday, most of them composed in the 1720s. The emotional range is astonishingly wide, from choral rejoicing to highly personal supplication. 

The Performance: This is the last volume of Gardiner’s cantata ‘pilgrimage’ throughout 2000 to appear. It actually began in Weimar on Christmas Day 1999 with Christen, ätzet diesen Tag, BWV63: Bernarda Fink brings a moving sense of wonder to her accompanied recitative. From time to time, you feel that the performers are flying by the seat of their pants, but the commitment and enjoyment shine through. Oddities include an unacknowledged trumpet playing a horn part in BWV65, and the listing of a seemingly phantom Magdalena Kožená. 

The Verdict: If you are collecting the series – and even if you aren’t – you won’t be disappointed. Gardiner’s direction is hard to fault, the instrumental playing is excellent and the choir and soloists are not far behind. 

Want More? There are 27 volumes in all of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage. Take your pick from the cataolgue – details at or from