Notes and Editorial Reviews
Scandalized by the abuses of the Catholic clergy, on October 31 1517, the Augustinian monk Martin Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg. The document condemned the selling of indulgences, advocated radical reforms, and set out his doctrine of justification by faith alone. Every October 31 since the early 16th century, Lutheran communities have celebrated the Feast of the Reformation. In his role as cantor at the Saint Thomas church in Leipzig, Bach wrote two cantatas to be sung for the occasion: the first version of BWV 80, likely composed in 1723, and two years later BWV 79. Cantata BWV 76 was written for the second Sunday after Trinity, and the second part was offered to the church of Saint Paul for its Reformation celebrations in 1724, 1729, 1740, and 1745. This is the eighth release in ATMA’s project to record the sacred cantatas of J.S. Bach in conjunction with Festival Montréal Baroque. This cycle is performed in keeping with the latest scholarship on Bach’s own performances, with the chorus sections sung by the four soloists, one voice per part.
Although the countertenor Michael Taylor dominates the proceedings to some extent by the sheer seductive beauty of his approach, each of the quartet contributes strong, expressive singing and works hand-in-glove with the instrumental forces. Bach’s exquisite ensembles of different configurations, especially those with solo oboe d’amore, viola d’amore and viola da gamba, are led by Eric Milnes so that balance and flow seem to regulate themselves. The concluding chorale of the first part of No 76, which is unforgettably magical, is just one of many moments of illumination, and, as always, supported by highly imaginative continuo work.