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Opera News: 10/2012
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Soli Deo Gratia

Code-barres / Barcode: 0843183071623

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Reviewer:  Joanne Sydney Lessner

This exceptionally well-engineered recording features the six motets Bach composed during his tenure at St. Thomas’s Church in Leipzig, plus a seventh only recently confirmed as his work. In the notes, John Eliot Gardiner reveals that he has been intimately familiar with these pieces since his days as a treble. The level of clarity he elicits from the Monteverdi Choir reflects his deep, partisan understanding of the seemingly fathomless levels of intricacy in these works. Even when Gardiner and his forces choose to be delicate, as in Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf, their approach remains muscular, their rhythms vibrant and energized. Their percussive approach to consonants keeps the hush of softer moments from deflating. One particularly effective example is the airy way the voices toss the ‘ch’ sounds in the ethereal “Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn,” the one entry that, until recently, was attributed to Bach’s cousin, Johann Christoph Bach. Gardiner has an unerring sense for which inner voices should shine through at any given moment. You can hear the singers listening to one another in the quiet section of “Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir,” ceding the foreground as the lines ebb and flow. Although the ten movement Jesu, meine Freude is the most substantial entry, the three movementSinget dem Herrn ein neuesLied was the standout for this listener. The title movement is positively rousing, while the second, “Wie sich ein Vater erbarmet,” is a comforting bath of warm sound. The joyous closer, “Lobet den Herrn in seinen Taten,” reflects the exuberant life force that informs the performances of this entire collection of demanding and rewarding contrapuntal choral tours de force.  

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