Bach Cantatas vol 28 on The Arts Desk
By Graham Rickson,, 20th April 2013


The final volume in John Eliot Gardiner’s mammoth Bach Cantata sequence is one of the very best.

Gardiner’s recent BBC2 documentary placed rightful emphasis on Bach’s humanity, his normality. The devout will find plenty of weighty religiosity in the four cantatas assembled here, but they’re also full of zest and vigour. Sample the opening chorus of Gott fähret auf mit Jauschen and smile at Bach’s unerring ability to compose music which exactly reflects the texts he sets. “God is gone up with a shout”, sing the Monteverdi Choir. The first minute is a little staid, before the music suddenly lurches forward into an exuberant, trumpet-led dance. Bass Dietrich Henschel’s solos are magnificent, and Gardiner’s sprightly direction allows him to soar. These cantatas do peculiar things with one’s sense of time; each one packs an inordinate amount of musical and philosophical content into a compact space.

Marvel at the opening of Lobett Gott in seinen Reichen, a brassy eruption of joy complemented in sublime fashion by a closing chorus which carries an emotional weight wholly out of proportion to its four-minute duration. This disc is full of such small miracles. The performances are incredibly assured, with tight, rich choral singing and orchestral playing full of felicitous detail. Several wonderful oboe da caccia solos stand out, and all is contained within the not-too-resonant acoustic of St Giles' Cripplegate where it was recorded in May 2012. These cantatas were to have been recorded in Salisbury in 2000, but "noise issues" intervened - this disc was made possible by 2500 volunteer donors offering £20 each to fund the concerts.

Read review on Arts Desk website.