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Hyperion’s predominantly black-grey cover is unfortunate, given both the dazzling array of musical colours Bach employs and Arcangelo’s brilliantly variegated performances.

Jonathan Cohen has assembled a talented bunch of musicians – 25 instrumentalists and 25 singers (five soloists, 20 ripienists): they have the individual versatility to exploit the profusion of styles and formats Bach drew on – stile antico to galant, solo voice to double choir – yet also have the collective ethos to maintain an overall sense of cohesion. The solo and duet movements are especially lovely, expressive yet never indulgent: try the flickering chiaroscuro of Neal Davies’ peat-dark bass, Ursula Paludan Monberg’s gleaming, fat-toned hunting horn and a pair of bassoons in the Quoniam, or the unearthly beauty of Tim Mead’s imploring alto in the Agnus Dei.

I had feared the four-voices-per-part choruses might be a touch ponderous, but their lines are finely shaped and their textures sound rich rather than heavy. This is a superbly conceived and executed set, absolutely joyous and gloriously colourful. Don’t let that cover put you off!

Graham Lock Read the full review on Agora Classica


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