Recreation for the Soul:

Bach cantatas in a new light, on Channel Classics


Following the enthusiastic reception of our live performances, last year we recorded a CD of works from the cornerstone of our repertoire, cantatas written by J.S. Bach. This disc has now been released and is available direct from Channel Classics.

Jesu, joy of man's desiring...

The title for our disc is taken from Bach's own words in his Thorough Instruction in the Figured Bass where he wrote that 'true music' was for 'the honour of God and the recreation of the soul'. Rather than choose the pieces according to their liturgical function, we have taken as our cue the idea that Bach's soul's 'recreation' is - at least in part - observed in his delight in numbers. In these pieces, numbers seem to be a starting-point for his imagination and guided his choices of metre and structure. The pieces we chose to record, three of his best-known cantatas, display the full emotional range of Bach's music:

  • Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich (BWV 150)
  • Jesu, der du meine Seele (BWV 78)
  • Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben (BWV 147)

The performers are:

Elin Manahan Thomas - soprano
Daniel Taylor - alto
James Gilchrist - tenor, and
Peter Harvey - director & bass

with a stellar group of instrumentalists led by Lucy Russell.

You can hear live concert recordings of Cantata 147 on the audio player on this website, top left.

Reviews so far:

The recording had a favourable reception on BBC Radio 3's 'CD Review' on Saturday September 6th, and Canada's 'The Whole Note' 'highly recommended' this 'marvellous disc'.

The Guardian's review Fiona Maddocks had some extremely favourable things to say about it on September 21st:


Bach Cantatas: Recreation for the Soul review -
in the best traditions of period playing

Magdalena Consort/Harvey, Elin Manahan Thomas, Daniel Taylor, James Gilchrist
(Channel Classics)
4 out of 5
Fiona Maddocks, The Observer, Sunday 21 September 2014

Buoyant and agile in performance, small in scale and steeped in the best traditions of period playing - putting musicality over scholarship - the Magdalena Consort was founded in 2008 by bass/director Peter Harvey. He and his musicians have grown up with the pioneering work of the Monteverdi Choir and John Eliot Gardiner, many having worked with him. The Magdalenas are the next generation, heading out alone. if you don't know them, try this brilliant disc. The three cantatas here - the earliest surviving BWV 150, Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich; BWV 78, Jesu, der du meine Seele and BWV 147, Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben - are linked by numerical and musical symbolism, acrostics and similar devices so often explored by Bach. On the other hand, just listening is reward enough.