- This album follows the acclaimed release of the Ascension Oratorio. It features soloists Hannah Morrison (soprano), Meg Bragle (mezzo), Nicholas Mulroy (tenor), Peter Harvey (bass).
- The Easter Oratorio, one of the less performed of Bach's choral works, was first composed as a simple cantata and later revised to become a more polished piece with a meditative emphasis.
- Actus tragicus, composed for a funeral, has an unusually soft toned instrumentation (recorders, viola da gamba and organ) which make it sound both consoling and full of optimism.
- The album is packaged in our usual casebook packaging and contains a 28 pages booklet with notes by John Eliot Gardiner and texts in German, English and French.
- In March 2014, the Monteverdi Choir will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary.
Music to combat grief is John Eliot Gardiner's apt description of Bach's Actus Tragicus, coupled on this CD with a timely performance of the Easter Oratorio. Gardiner's long, in-depth experience of Bach's music has been manifest over the past decade through the many SDG recordings emanating from his Bach Pilgrimage in 2000 with the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque soloists. This, however, is a completely new recording, made in June last year. The Actus Tragicus is comparatively early Bach, but it is thoroughly mature in the range of penetrating emotions that Gardiner and his forces fully and poignantly explore here. If the chorus is assigned the upbeat role in the first number and in the lively counterpoint of the final one, elsewhere in the Actus Tragicus the arias and ariosos float on the air of consolation. The elegiac mood of the piece is heralded by a remarkable sinfonia at the start, softly scored for recorders, viole da gamba and organ and in its harmonies mixing sorrow with serenity. Gardiner has a judicious sense of the pulse of this music, and his singers and instrumentalists draw their colouring, phrasing and textural inflections from the music's natural contours and expressive implications. A succinct piece, it says all it needs to say in 20 minutes or so, and this performance is a persuasive advocate of it. --Telegraph,23/4/14
His tempos are beautifully interrelated so that everything leads to(and from) the central pause that consigns the mystery of death to utter silence; and the textures are invested with a lightness that evokes the hushed stillness of the death chamber. It's quite a wrench as the final guttering two-note instrumental Amen yields to the Oratorio whose choruses showcase the Monteverdi Choir's much-prized ebullience. Performance **** Recording ***** --BBC Music Magazine, June'14
This is certainly a grand version of Bach's relatively modest Resurrection drama in which Jesus makes no appearance. --IRR, June'14