Monteverdi Choir/Gardiner, Cadogan Hall, London<img src="http://www.independent.co.uk/template/ver/gfx/fourstar.gif"></img >

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The Independent Culture

For many, the defining musical ritual of Advent comes from King's College, Cambridge. Those who experience the Monteverdi Choir's visits to Cadogan Hall with seasonal Bach cantatas think otherwise: this annual taste of paradise has you restless for the next as soon as it is over. Here they were again with their mix of precision and warmth, and given the quality of the music it was easy to indulge Sir John Eliot Gardiner choosing only one cantata out of four that was meant for the time of year.

The first two recycled music from older Advent works, both using all four solo singers. No 70 gave the bass two numbers, which Matthew Brook relished in deadpan, mock-admonitory style. Tenor Nicholas Mulroy took a more conversational line with this cantata's lapses into exhaustion. The counter-tenor William Towers was equally eloquent, though upstaged by David Watkin's cello solo. No 147 went at an ecstatic flowing pace.

No 61, the one intended for Advent, had a quite different mood of impatience, identified with pinpoint accuracy by the performers. Finally, there was No 140, whose main substance is a conceit that represents the intercourse between Christ and the soul as a sexual relationship. The soprano-bass duet that repeats the line "I'm coming" for over five minutes is a singer's test for straight faces, negotiated with ardour by Brook and Julia Doyle.

The English Baroque Soloists' care for instrumental balance produced some quietly sumptuous chording and blended melodies, nowhere more than in this cantata's long line for octave strings set against the chorale tune, itself sung by a resplendent mix of tenors and basses and rightly given a second go at the end.

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