For the First Sunday after Easter, John Eliot Gardiner and his Bach cantata pilgrimage took themselves to the Johann Sebastian-Bach-Kirche in Arnstadt, Thuringia -- so named because it was the 18-year-old Bach's first professional post -- to perform and record four cantatas on April 29 and 30, 2000: Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich (Unto Thee, Lord, do I lift up my soul) (BWV 150), Halt im Gedächtnis Jesum Christ (Remember that Jesus Christ) (BWV 67), Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats (Then the same day at evening) (BWV 42), and Der Friede sei mit dir (Peace be with you) (BWV 158). With his Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists, plus soprano Gillian Keith, alto Daniel Taylor, tenor Charles Daniels, and bass Stephen Varcoe, Gardiner paints a colorful, devotional portrait of Bach as a young Lutheran composer eager to prove his musical skill and his spiritual commitment.
For the Second Sunday after Easter, Gardiner and his Pilgrimage went west to the Basilique St. Willibrord in Echternach, Luxembourg -- an eleventh century abbey rebuilt as a modern twentieth century church after its near complete destruction in the Second World War -- to perform and record three cantatas on May 7, 2000: Du Hirte Israel, höre (You shepherd of Israel, hear us) (BWV 104), Ich bin ein guter Hirt (I am the faithful shepherd) (BWV 85), and Der Herr is mein getreuer Hirt (The Lord is my true shepherd) (BWV 112). With the Choir and Soloists plus soprano Katherine Fuge, alto William Towers, tenor Norbert Meyn, and, once again bass Stephen Varcoe, Gardiner illuminates Bach's three views of the 23rd Psalm. As always in this superlative series, Gardiner leads performances that are consummately musical, supremely spiritual, and immensely compelling, and no matter what the age or shape of the venue, SDG Records and Monteverdi Productions grant them clean, direct, and vivid sound.