soloists and The Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists/John
Elliot Gardiner — Soli Deo Gloria SDG 114 (59 mins.) ****:
The attraction here is the first recording of Bach’s recently
discovered Birthday Ode for Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Saxe-Weimar, written
in 1713. Discovered in the Duchess Anna Amalia Library this past June,
it has been rushed to market and makes a very attractive introduction
to highlights, in the form of an assortment of arias and choruses, from
Gardiner’s Bach Cantata Pilgrimage 2000 tour.
The Ode, as such things are wont to be, is short and sweet. Its story
is told breathlessly by the scholar who made the discovery, Michael
Maul, who is justifiably proud of his discovery and this, the world
premiere recording. The performances are stylish phrased, intimately
proportioned and warmly sung and played, as if they were being
presented before the composer himself.
The recording of the new arrival, done at Air Studios in London, is
beautifully clean and clear, just avoiding the antiseptic, although
Elin Manahan Thomas’ lovely soprano voice can harden just a bit on
cheaper players. The sound on the live performances has more space and
character, if marginally less focus.
No one is claiming that “Alles mit Gott” is top drawer Bach, but it is
representative of the composer at his most endearing and should be a
popular party piece, not to mention perfect for fund-raising drives on
– Laurence Vittes