After the completion of the magisterial touring sequence of Bach cantatas from conductor John Eliot Gardiner and his Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists, it seems that the prolific music-making will continue with non-cantata works. This strong recording of Bach's Easter Oratorio, BWV 249, was released just in time for the 2014 Easter holiday and should find the same demand as the rest of Gardiner's output. The Easter Oratorio is more an oversized cantata than a full-scale treatment with narrator, chorus, and soloists in the manner of Bach's other large religious works; it has no narrating Evangelist, consists mostly of solos in dialogue with each other, and apparently was actually adapted from an earlier pastoral birthday cantata. The performance here has the positives typical of Gardiner's Bach recordings: warmth, deep familiarity with the texts, and smooth ensemble work born of long acquaintance among the musicians. The choir of 23 is perfectly sized for the work, and the sound, with Gardiner's engineers no longer constrained by the requirements of the churches where the ensemble appeared on tour, is unusually clear. The soloists are drawn from the choir, a slight negative given that the Easter Oratorio stands or falls on its solos; they actually do better in the intimate funeral Cantata No. 106, BWV 106 ("Actus Tragicus"), that opens the program. In general, though, this is a release that Gardiner fans will be glad to have.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit, BWV 106|
|Kommt, eilet und laufet, BWV 249|