As in his previous volumes of Bach cantatas in this series, John Eliot Gardiner brings a velvet-gloved, yet iron-fisted approach to Bach. His tempos are supple and his lines are radiant, but the singleness of vision and strength of will are inflexible. As always, the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists are both formally and expressively under his firm control. This doesn't mean Gardiner won't allow his vocal soloists considerable interpretive leeway. Soprano Gillian Keith and bass Peter Harvey are marvelously free in the duet between the Soul and Jesus in Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn (Walk the Path of Faith) (BWV 152). But the musical context is wholly Gardiner's.
The packaging and production values are, as always, superlative. Recorded live in St. Bartholomew's in New York on the Sunday after Christmas, December 31, 2000, the sound here is ideally balanced, perfectly clear, and utterly natural. Unlike most volumes in this series, however, this is a single-disc package, and so it makes a good introduction to both Bach's cantatas and to Gardiner's approach to them for buyers who would like to test the waters without investing too much money.