James Gilchrist


James Gilchrist

Educated at King's College Cambridge, James Gilchrist began his working life as a doctor, turning to a full-time career in music in 1996. Opera credits include Acis, Peter Quint and the title-role in Albert Herring (recorded for Chandos under the late Richard Hickox), whilst his oratorio repertoire covers the major works of Bach, Handel and Haydn. A prolific recitalist, he has won particular acclaim for his collaboration with the pianist Anna Tilbrook: their recordings together include discs of songs by Lennox Berkeley, Finzi and John Jeffreys as well as a 'lively, intelligent, sympathetic account' (The Times) of Die Schöne Müllerin in 2009.

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Bach, J S: St John Passion, BWV245

Bach, J S: St John Passion, BWV245

James Gilchrist (Evangelist), Neal Davies (Christus), Sophie Bevan (soprano/Ancilla), Iestyn Davies (alto), Ed Lyon (tenor arias), Toby Ward (Servus), Benedict Kearns (Petrus), Roderick Williams (bass arias/Pilatus)

Academy of Ancient Music & King's College Choir Cambridge, Stephen Cleobury

Stephen Cleobury and the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge are joined by the Academy of Ancient Music in Bach’s much-loved St John Passion. Captured live in 2016 during Easter celebrations at the College, it features an all-star line-up of soloists who are renowned for their handling of the repertoire, including King’s alumnus James Gilchrist as The Evangelist and Neal Davies, Cardiff Singer of the World prize-winner, as Jesus.

The St John Passion presents the dramatic narrative with a concentrated sense of urgency, in contrast to the vast proportions of the St Matthew Passion. Many of the arias are deeply reflective and expressive, none more so than ‘Es ist vollbracht!’, in which the countertenor and the viola da gamba weave their melodies in a most beguiling way. The Choir’s recent release of the Duruflé Requiem was nominated for the 2017 International Classical Music awards, while 'Hymns from King’s', a collection of popular hymns arranged by Stephen Cleobury, was chosen by John Suchet as a Classic FM ‘Album of the Week’.

“Cleobury has assembled an unassailable team of soloists, whose powerful insights gild Neal Davies’s Jesus, a characterisation of immense presence and authority.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2017 ****

“Gilchrist’s Evangelist is poised and clear, Davies’ Christ often unbearably moving. Of the other voices, Sophie Bevan and Roderick Williams stand out, which choral and orchestral contributions are apt and beautifully executed; Cleobury’s direction and dramatic timing are exemplary” Classical Music, July 2017 *****

“'Herr und Herrscher' is delineated impeccably, with the AAM's graceful strings and perfectly balanced oboes giving nuanced support to the choir. James Gilchrist's compassionate Evangelist, Roderick Williams's animated 'Eilt, ihr angefochtnen Seelen', Iestyn Davies's sublime 'Es ist vollbracht! and Sophie Bevan's lithesome 'Zerfliesse, mein Herze' will be sufficient reasons alone to persuade many of us to pick up a copy.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2017

“Stephen Cleobury has been conducting this work for decades, and knows what he is doing when it comes to shaping Bach’s great phrases. The orchestra respond to him very well…and make a beautiful sound…the soloists are excellent” MusicWeb International, 18th April 2017

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Bach, J S: St Matthew Passion, BWV244

Bach, J S: St Matthew Passion, BWV244

James Gilchrist (Evangelist), Stephan Loges (Jesus), Hannah Morrison, Zoë Brookshaw, Charlotte Ashley (soprano), Reginald Mobley, Eleanor Minney (alto), Hugo Hymas (tenor), Ashley Riches, Alex Ashworth, Jonathan Sells (bass)

English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir, Trinity Boys Choir, Sir John Eliot Gardiner

Read Katherine's exclusive interview with Sir John Eliot Gardiner here, and our complete review of the recording here.

A new live recording of Bach’s St Matthew Passion (Matthäuspassion BWV 244), recorded in Pisa Cathedral during the Anima Mundi Festival as part of the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra’s 2016 tour.

As well as the full sung texts, the booklet includes both a programme note by Sir John Eliot Gardiner as well as his tour notes: written both before and during their 6-month international tour – which began in Valencia in March and concluded with this performance in Pisa on 22 September – these include diary entries and notes given during rehearsals or sent in the aftermath of concerts to the performers (who were performing from memory).

All notes and texts are included in English, German and French translations.

“an intensely human Bach, sensitive and alert, heart open to every slightest turn of emotion in the Passion story...Gardiner has recorded the St Matthew Passion before, but this new recording is exceptional in its clarity and detail, the summation of his life’s experience of the music.” Financial Times, 10th March 2017 ****

“Gardiner may have lived with this music for half his life, but still gives the impression that he’s discovering little miracles in it for the first time: there’s never any sense of routine from him or from the performers, despite this being the final performance of a gruelling European tour...One for Gardiner devotees and newcomers alike, then: if you own his earlier recording, you’ll want to hear this for the crackling dramatic energy generated by the live performance.” Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, 17th March 2017

“If a Passion performance has no sense of community it has nothing, and this is surely the making of Gardiner’s account...a thoughtfully moulded, expertly executed and deeply committed reading, so honestly communicative of its intent and so free of self-conscious monumentalism, sententiousness or melodramatics...I believe it to be one of his finest achievements.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2017

“A revelatory psychological document...You will rarely find Matthew’s description...more melodramatically conveyed in music...[Gilchrist is] a storyteller who seems in the midst of the events he is describing, like a war correspondent. You may also feel - if you are a fan of period-instrument textures at their most sinuous and whittled down- that Bach’s score has never been better served than by the English Baroque Soloists.” The Times ****

“this glorious St Matthew Passion from John Eliot Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir is musically as near-perfect as anyone could wish...All the Gardiner hallmarks are here: brisk tempi, crisp chorus work and a complete devotion to the text. Gilchrist and Loges excel.” The Observer, 9th April 2017 ****

“Gilchrist is an incisive Evangelist, gripping in the passages of drama, and Stephan Loges a noble-toned, idiomatic Christus. Gardiner’s Bach remains a lodestar, provided you are not wedded to one-voice-to-a-part minimalism.” Sunday Times, 16th April 2017

“The combination of James Gilchrist and Neil Davies as Evangelist and Jesus…is ideal.” Choir & Organ, May 2017 *****

“James Gilchrist is among the most communicative of storytellers and his lightly articulated, subtly nuanced declamation and, where required, sense of urgency are eloquent and dependable…the many choruses, chorales and arias come across convincingly…Eleanor Minney deserves special mention for her ‘Erbarme dich’…Gardiner directs all with insight, sensibility and a commendably athletic overview which ensures an unflagging sense of drama” BBC Music Magazine, July 2017 ***

Presto Disc of the Week

17th March 2017

GGramophone Awards 2017

Finalist - Baroque Vocal

GGramophone Magazine

Disc of the Month - April 2017

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Love's Philosophy

Love's Philosophy

Knowles, B:

Guitar Concerto 'Visiones de Andalucia'

Orchestra of Opera North, David Angus

Poco Rondo for solo guitar

Eight Songs from Poetry Serenade

James Gilchrist (tenor)

'A Fond Farewell' for guitar & orchestra

Orchestra of Opera North, David Angus

Craig Ogden (guitar)

Read our exclusive interview with Brian Knowles here.

Craig Ogden is one of the great guitarists of our time, and has been a regular fixture in the UK Classical Charts with his albums being among the best- selling classical releases of the year. He is a firm favourite with Classic FM listeners, and this new album will be eagerly awaited by them.

Belfast-born composer Brian Knowles’ concerto written for his guitarist son is infused with Spanish traditional music and atmosphere, and is beautifully written for guitar. Fans of Rodrigo’s famous concerto will immediately be attracted to this new concerto, which also contains a slow movement that has an ability to stay in the listener’s head long after the music has stopped! 'Poco Rondo' was written for Craig, and is a virtuosic solo work that displays his artistry superbly. The 'Eight Songs' for tenor and guitar are settings of Shakespeare, Shelley, Burns, de la Mare and Byron and are sung by James Gilchrist.

Brian Knowles studied composition at the Royal Academy of Music. In 1970 he formed the group ‘Saffron’. Brian subsequently became Musical Director of concerts worldwide for Roger Whittaker, many of his songs being performed and recorded by both Saffron and Whittaker. In 2002 Brian’s anthem ‘Jubilee Tribute’ was composed and performed especially for HRH The Queen at the Service of Remembrance and was broadcast worldwide from the Royal Albert Hall.

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Hugh Wood: Wild Cyclamen

Hugh Wood: Wild Cyclamen

Wood, Hugh:

Laurie Lee Songs

DH Lawrence Songs

The Isles of Greece

Wild Cyclamen

Clare McCaldin (mezzo-soprano), James Gilchrist (tenor), Roderick Williams (baritone), Iain Burnside (piano), Simon Lepper (piano)

Composer Hugh Wood is known for his powerfully communicative and lyrical music and this latest release presents a selection of songs spanning his career. They are set to poems by DH Lawrence, Robert Graves, Laurie Lee and Lawrence Durrell, exploring themes of youth, love, lust and longing.

Wild Cyclamen (2006) – a song-cycle from twelve individual, unrelated poems by Robert Graves – depicts the rise and fall of a love affair. Hugh Wood explains: “Graves wrote no such cycle but I’ve dared to construct one. It doesn’t achieve too strong a story-line, but the songs are meant to be sung in a fixed order”.

The DH Lawrence settings (1998) include three poems Lawrence wrote about his days with Frieda in Bavaria and the Isles of Greece (2007) is a compilation of poems celebrating various aspects of Greek life and its people.

The earliest works on this recording are the Laurie Lee Songs (1956-58) written when Hugh was in his mid-twenties.

“Wood is nothing if not a craftsman, and his vocal lines are always skilful amplifications of the text while his idiomatically written piano parts set the voice off to its best advantage” BBC Music Magazine, July 2015 ****

“Wood has produced more than a dozen voice-and-piano works, and here are four: three collections and a song cycle proper. The five Laurie Lee Songs, dating back to 1958, come over with a post-Brittenish freshness.” Sunday Times, 12th April 2015

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Monteverdi: Madrigals of Love and Loss

Monteverdi: Madrigals of Love and Loss




Volgendo il ciel (Ballo ‘Movete')

Thomas Walker (tenor)

Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda

James Gilchrist (tenor)

Or che’l ciel e la terra

Ohimè, dov'è il mio ben (Book 7)

Katherine Watson (soprano) & Anna Dennis (soprano)

Zefiro torna

Ohimè il bel viso (Book 6)

Sestina - Lagrimae d'Amante al sepolero dell'amata

Gramophone Award-winning ensemble Arcangelo (in their first recording as a vocal and instrumental group) presents a selection from Monteverdi’s last three books of madrigals. These ardent and passionate works are microcosms of Monteverdi’s great operas, and among his most celebrated music.

Most of the madrigals of Book 6 (1614) are songs of parting and loss. Book 7 (1619) is entitled Concerto, meaning that all the works it contains require instrumental accompaniment. And Book 8 (1638) introduces the genere concitato—the ‘agitated’ manner that Monteverdi devised to convey the emotions of war, whether physical or psychological. Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda sets an extended passage from Tasso’s epic poem Gerusalemme liberata. Tasso’s text, set in the time of the first crusade, tells of the combat between the Christian knight Tancredi and the Saracen maiden Clorinda. Most of the action of the Combattimento is conveyed by a narrator (Testo—the text), sung here by celebrated tenor James Gilchrist.

“All of Cohen's singers come from the world of opera, and it shows in performances that place the drama of le parole to the fore...But among so much vocal athleticism, it's still the instrumentalists that dominate...Arcangelo's musicians deploy rough-edged expressive risk-taking within a framework of complete stylistic control.” Gramophone Magazine, March 2014

“The first impression given by the opening track on this disc is of enormous energy and breadth. There is some superb singing from the assured and polished tenor Thomas Walker, while even more impressive is the remarkably full-bodied sound and glorious instrumental textures from the dozen players” International Record Review, March 2014

“These are not easy pieces, but the opening ballet swings along with panache, and there is some excellent tenor solo singing in the first section.” BBC Music Magazine, April 2014 ****

“Of the two emotional foci of the disc, the Combattimento and the Sestina, the former is the more draining listening, thanks to the thrilling, visceral singing of James Gilchrist, in whose narration is summoned up every sword clash, every colour of the night, and almost every exhausted breath. I can’t imagine better performances of the middle-of-the- programme madrigals.” Early Music Today

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Beethoven: Missa Solemnis in D major, Op. 123

Beethoven: Missa Solemnis in D major, Op. 123

Recorded live at the Barbican Hall, London, October 2012

“Performed to perfection and brought into new, terrifying life” – The Times *****

“A daringly coloured account, exuberant physicality... There was hardly a passage that did not show the result of Gardiner’s hallmark intelligence and audacity” – The Guardian *****

“Nothing short of rapid-fire choral entries will do, and the Monteverdi sopranos duly shone in their ecstatic embrace of the stratosphere –The Financial Times *****

This album was recorded live at the Barbican in 2012. It features soloists Lucy Crowe (soprano), Jennifer Johnston (mezzo), James Gilchrist (tenor), Matthew Rose (bass). Sir John Eliot Gardiner offers a daring reading of this piece. The ORR’s performance on period instruments is virtuosic and colourful; the Monteverdi Choir contributes arresting chorus parts. Composed “from the heart”, Beethoven’s epic Mass has been described a statement of highly personal religious faith. It is rarely heard in concert due to the large forces required and the exacting demand it places on all performers.

The album is packaged in a digipack and contains a 36-page booklet with original notes by BBC presenter and music journalist Stephen Johnson.

“Roger Montgomery plays with exemplary nobility and assurance on the natural horn, making fiendish “stopped” notes sound as easy as sleigh bells.” The Times, 7th December 2013 *****

“Gardiner’s intensity of phrasing – speed never the enemy of expression – combines with rapid-fire choral entries and a radiant quartet of soloists to create an incandescent performance” Financial Times, 7th December 2013 ****

“Gardiner’s live 2012 recording from the Barbican is faster and even more radical than his 1990 studio recording, with punchier choral articulation. But it, too, captures the desperate urgency and almost unbearable emotional intensity of this supreme work” Sunday Times, 15th December 2013

“the briskness never undermines the work's moments of transcendent beauty or near-operatic theatricality – the Dona Nobis Pacem has a cataclysmic climax” The Guardian, 2nd January 2014 ****

“I think that the 2012 reading transcends even the 1989 recording. For a start the orchestral playing is excellent...The contribution of the Monteverdi Choir is simply magnificent...The members of the solo quartet are individually excellent and also make a fine team...a powerful and superbly executed account of Beethoven’s choral masterpiece.” MusicWeb International, 22nd January 2014

“Such is the visceral intensity of the music-making, a certain girding of the loins may be required before a second hearing, but isn't that precisely how it should be with a work of this power and magnitude?” Gramophone Magazine, February 2014

“the whole performance is in almost all respects a triumph. The choir and orchestra are superbly drilled, and apart from occasional sharpness in some of the soloists' parts they too are first-rate.” International Record Review, March 2014

“it's not difficult to understand why Gardiner wanted this particular performance perpetuated: fine as the Archiv version is, the new one has an electricity of a kind that's hard to generate under studio conditions.” BBC Music Magazine, April 2014 *****

GGramophone Awards 2014

Finalist - Choral

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - February 2014

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Bach, J S: Christmas Oratorio, BWV248

Bach, J S: Christmas Oratorio, BWV248

Stephen Layton and the combined forces of Trinity College Choir Cambridge, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and an impressive line-up of soloists present a joyous rendition of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. This six-part masterpiece covers the events of the nativity to Epiphany and beautifully evokes the pastoral atmosphere of the Gospels which is such an important part of the Christmas liturgy.

James Gilchrist has become one of the most admired Evangelists performing today, his limpid, flexible tone and great musicianship bringing the stories thrillingly to life.

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

“the playing of the OAE brings great distinction to this recording...Right from the opening chorus of Cantata I one notes clarity and vigour in [the choir's] singing...Gilchrist is an admirable choice as the Evangelist...I found his narration beautifully nuanced, sensitive and characterful...This stylish and committed performance is one that renews again one’s awe at the genius of Bach.” MusicWeb International, 8th November 2013

“the 38 mixed voices of Trinity College Choir [are] very well trained, especially in matters of firm text enunciation...the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment sounds thoroughly at home (David Blackadder gives a very suave trumpet solo in 'Grosser Herr'), and Stephen Layton conducts with care and expertise.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2013

“The fact that the music seems to course through the very veins of the singers and players, not to mention Layton himself, is one of the qualities that make this Christmas Oratorio such a telling, affecting and inspiring experience, judiciously balancing jubilation, devotion and contemplation.” The Telegraph, 28th November 2013 *****

“Layton unwraps it with all due festive pomp and circumstance...In a work incontestably smitten with the alto voice, Iestyn Davies triumphs...Gilchrist's relaxed and lyrical Evangelist maintains the narrative flow...Crisp choral singing and exquisite accompaniment, this is a decidedly welcome addition to anyone's Christmas stocking.” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas Issue 2013 ****

“Layton and his orchestral players begin with tremendous verve, but there is infinite variety in this seasoned Bach conductor’s trajectory of the six cantatas with the lively, mixed-voice Trinity choir — singing in excellent German — and elite British soloists...Gilchrist’s Evangelist here could hardly be bettered among his compatriots, incisively declaimed and subtly nuanced.” Sunday Times, 22nd December 2013

“There’s a real sense of jubilation right from the opening chorus; the young mixed-voice choir sing with verve and immaculately crisp diction, and the chorales are phrased with tender loving care...The soloists are also top-drawer...Davies’s limpid alto arias are simply some of the finest accounts on disc.” Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, 2nd December 2013

“An enthralling disc...I was most impressed with the soloists, particularly James Gilchrist’s eloquent Evangelist and Matthew Brook’s resonant bass, and by some brilliant playing from the OAE – their exultant trumpets and timpani open and close the oratorio in a blaze of festive jubilation.” Early Music Today

Presto Disc of the Week

2nd December 2013

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My Beloved Spake

My Beloved Spake

Anthems by Henry Purcell & Pelham Humfrey


Magnificat and Nunc dimittis in E minor from Evening Service

O Lord my God


Rejoice in the Lord alway ('The Bell Anthem'), Z49

Hear my prayer, O Lord, Z15

My beloved spake, Z28

O sing unto the Lord, Z44

Remember not, O Lord, our offences, Z50

Jehova, quam multi sunt hostes mei, Z135

Behold now, praise the Lord, Z3

Iestyn Davies (counter-tenor), James Gilchrist (tenor), David Stout (baritone) & Neal Davies (bass)

Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge & St John’s Sinfonia, Andrew Nethsingha

Established in the 1670s, the Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge is today one of the finest college choirs in the world, known and loved by millions for its recordings and concert tours. On this album, the Choir and St John’s Sinfonia, conducted by Andrew Nethsingha, perform works by Henry Purcell and Pelham Humfrey. They are joined by four soloists: Iestyn Davies, James Gilchrist, David Stout, and Neal Davies.

Humfrey was an English composer of the seventeenth century, known mainly for his verse anthems. Being well travelled, he produced works that in their vocal character show the influence of Italian music, and in the instrumental writing that of French music. That said, from these major foreign influences Humfrey forged a personal style that is uniquely English. Although as a composer he was generally forward-looking, his music also shows sub-elements of the English Golden Age of yesteryear. O Lord my God, for instance, is influenced by John Dowland’s celebrated Lachrimae Pavan of almost eighty years earlier.

In contrast, the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis were composed simply to be liturgically appropriate, with a text setting that is naturalistic and direct. Humfrey died at the age of twenty-seven, but even at this young age, he exerted a strong influence on his peers, including Henry Purcell, who as a young boy sang treble in Humfrey’s Chapel Royal Choir.

The works by Purcell recorded here range from works written when the composer was in his teenage years (Jehova, quam multi sunt hostes mei being a masterly example) to the crowning glory of the recording, O sing unto the Lord, which Purcell wrote when he was in his thirties, and compositionally on fire. At this stage of his career no other composer could touch him. Instruments and voices sing from the same hymn sheet, form and content are inseparable, past and present musical styles seamlessly intermingle, technique and virtuosity are indistinguishable from each other – and soloists and choir mesh together in a dazzling and life-affirming way.

“Nethsingha juxtaposes such relatively unfamiliar fare with masterpieces including O Sing unto the Lord. He is a committed custodian of the Oxbridge choral tradition, as are his fine soloists” Sunday Times, 2nd December 2012

“It is nice these days to have a chance to hear some of Purcell's church anthems sung by a choir of boys and men...It is in integrated works such as O Lord my God, where the expressive urgency of this choir's soloists can rub off, that the choir is at its best; less successful are the more patchwork pieces” Gramophone Magazine, January 2013

“The warm continental sound of the boys' voices might sometimes bestow an unexpectedly 'foreign' accent on this music (albeit shot through with imports from France and Italy), but the commitment, intensity and lucidity compels. And Nethsingha has assembled a formidable team.” BBC Music Magazine, February 2013 ****

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Handel: Esther

Handel: Esther

First Reconstructable Version (Cannons), 1720

Susan Hamilton (Esther), Nicholas Mulroy (Mordecai), Matthew Brook (Haman), Thomas Hobbs (1st Israelite), Robin Blaze (Priest), James Gilchrist (Habdonah / Assuerus) & Electra Lochhead (Israelite Boy); Nicholas Wearne (organ continuo)

Dunedin Consort, John Butt

The Dunedin Consort’s highly anticipated new recording of ‘Esther - First Reconstructable Version (Cannons), 1720’ is the third recording in its hugely successful Handel series.

The Consort have set the bar high for this Handel performance with a Gramophone Award in 2007 for ‘Messiah’ and a BBC Radio 3 ‘Building a Library’ First Choice accolade for ‘Acis and Galatea’.

For Esther, director John Butt has reunited his award-winning team of soloists (Susan Hamilton - Esther; Nicholas Mulroy - Mordecai; Matthew Brook - Haman; Thomas Hobbs - 1st Israelite) plus well-known guest soloists Robin Blaze – Priest, James Gilchrist – Habdonah / Assuerus and Electra Lochhead - Israelite Boy.

The Dunedin Consort has established a reputation as the finest single-part period performance choir currently performing.

In 2011 Gramophone named the Dunedin Consort the 11th Greatest Choir in recognition of its ‘triple focus upon artistic revitalisation of over-familiar great works, meticulous musicological enquiry and the audiophile integrity of Linn Records' production values.’

The multi-award-winning Dunedin Consort has won praise for the natural style of its soloists (‘an authoritative bass and a superb contralto’ The Guardian) and renown for the virtuosity of its singers.

The Dunedin Consort has performed at music festivals in Scotland - including the Edinburgh International Festival and broadcasts frequently on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Scotland.

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

“Butt's direction combines spontaneous freshness with a care for expressive phrasing and precise colouring. The 11-strong chorus - the solo cast plus reinforcement - is vital incisive, packing a fair punch even in the ceremonial final chorus.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2012

“the scholarship is only a means to an end, and is never allowed to get in the way of the wonderfully crafted music making. Textures are lean – 11 singers, including the soloists, 20 instrumentalists – but wonderfully precise, and the solo contributions, with soprano Susan Hamilton as Esther, are models of stylishness.” The Guardian, 17th May 2012 ****

“Butt's consort of soloists do this great music proud, sounding larger than their number would suggest...I'll return to this recording for the winning drive, dramatic conception and expressive phrasing of Butt's direction, his crack Baroque orchestra and his exceptional male cast” International Record Review, June 2012

“Paradoxically, a two-voices-to-a-part chorus achieves more immediacy than a larger choir, coupled with a stylish and delightfully intimate band. Yet again, Butt demonstrates that less can be more.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2012 ****

“the score is an absolute treasure-trove of arias: highlights include the alto lament ‘O Jordan, Jordan, sacred tide’ (ravishingly sculpted by a plangent Robin Blaze), Esther’s defiant rage aria ‘Bloody wretch’ and the gorgeous pair of tenor arias in which the king Assuerus puts love before duty. The ever-excellent James Gilchrist is at his most mellifluous here, and like his fellow soloists blends seamlessly into the whole for the choruses.” Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, 14th May 2012

Presto Disc of the Week

14th May 2012

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Johann Christoph Bach: Welt, gute Nacht

Johann Christoph Bach: Welt, gute Nacht

Bach, J C'ph:

Cantata 'Herr, wende dich und sei mir gnädig'

Aria 'Mit Weinen hebt sichs an'

Wie bist du denn, O Gott

Motet 'Der Gerechte, ob er gleich zu zeitlich stirbt''

Ach, daß ich Wassers genug hätte

Fürchte dich nicht

Aria 'Es ist nun aus mit meinem Leben'

Meine Freundin, du bist schön

This album was recorded live at Cadogan Hall in 2009. It features internationally acclaimed singers, including Matthew Brook, Peter Harvey and Katharine Fuge. It is packaged in a hard back book similar to our other releases. It contains a 48 pages booklet with original notes by Richard Campbell (to whose memory the recording is dedicated), and texts in German, English and French.

The live concert was billed “Six funerals and a wedding”: the pieces evoke the dark theme of grief, as was fashionable in 17th century Lutheran Germany; though the last track “Meine Freundin” is a lighter amorous dialogue The music on this album is in turn dark, poignant, humane and witty It features choral music (motets) as well as solo arias and laments, and two dialogues Johann Christoph Bach (1642-1703) - not to be confused with Johann Christian Bach, was Johann Sebastian Bach’s older cousin. A respected composer in his lifetime, he greatly influenced JS Bach’s music making.

“It's as elegantly poised as you'd expect from Gardiner, with the eight singers accompanied in sombre period arrangements by the English Baroque Soloists, in which the violas da gamba seem to weep.” The Independent, 9th September 2011 ***

“His music has a less complex surface than the more familiar oeuvre of Johann Sebastian: it invites contemplation...With soloists of the calibre of Katherine Fuge and Peter Harvey, John Eliot Gardiner and his ensemble have uncovered a treasure trove. Their performances communicate not just skill, but delight in the world behind the music.” Financial Times, 17th September 2011 ****

“This older Bach’s spare textures and bold chromatic effects make him a highly individual voice in this penitential but deeply moving music. Peter Harvey’s bass and Claire Wilkinson’s mezzo shine out from this “choir” of soloists, but Gardiner is the driving force.” Sunday Times, 25th September 2011

“This fascinating collection, based on a concert that John Eliot Gardiner conducted at Cadogan Hall, London, in 2009, covers a good range of Johann Christoph's surviving output. The two five-part motets are intense, slightly dour affairs...the two arias are also haunted by death, though, like most of the works here, the harmonic richness of the music makes them seem anything but lugubrious.” The Guardian, 22nd September 2011 ***

“CPE Bach called Christoph "the great and expressive composer", and here the marvellous Lament (the excellent Matthew Brook) and quirky Dialogue (with its endlessly varied Chaconne) amply bear this out in superb performances by Gardiner's consort. Christian's unusual Requiem is no less striking in its force, but more conventional in its language.” The Observer, 9th October 2011

“Vocal soloists and instrumentalists alike bring JC Bach's intense Lutheran feeling to life, each piece taking the lsitener on an emotional and musical journey. Vocal lines are beautifully and cleanly phrased, with a lovely overall balance of voices...Gardiner's interpretations are as beautifully researched, judged and executed as always.” Classic FM Magazine, December 2011 ****

“Bach of any generation from Gardiner's eminently engaged and engaging forces is self-recommending; yet for its rarity value alone Welt, gute Nacht is as important a release as that of a B minor Mass or St Matthew Passion.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2011 ****

“Nearly every piece has a singular gesture or feature that captures the imagination...The vocal soloists acquit themselves well in music that demands utter commitment, although just occasionally the very last degree of refinement and control eludes them...In a cappella formation, however, they offer some of the disc's most memorable moments” Gramophone Magazine, December 2011

“There's not a single weak link here: even the simplest choral harmonizations are loving crafted and the long 25-minute wedding dialogue never flags for a second. Gardiner and his team sound as though they love this music, delivering dramatically inflected performances, which, partly becuase they are live, have that extra edge of emotional and rhetorical reach. The recording is one of the best I've heard on the Soli Deo Gloria label.” International Record Review, November 2011

SDG - SDG715



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