JS Bach Secular Cantatas II
So far Masaaki Suzuki has released 50 volumes in his survey of Bach’s sacred cantatas. Yet this is only his second volume of secular cantatas. Perhaps one obstacle with these works lies with their texts: their dripping mythological allusions, princely birthdays and the like, acknowledged with an obsequiousness that sits uncomfortably today.
Previously, Suzuki tackled the relative well known Coffee and Wedding cantatas; here he follows the Hunt with a Serenata saluting the New Year (and the house of Anhalt-Köthen). He also prefaces BWV 208 with an early version of what would become the first movement of Brandenburg No. 1, and the mellow fruitfulness of Bach Collegium Japan sets the scene beautifully for a conceit that involves Diana, Endymion, Pan and Pales in a lavish tribute to the Duke of Sachsen-Weissenfels. To soprano Joanne Lunn falls the show-stopping ‘Sheep may safely graze’ – deliciously innocent and artfully embellished at the reprise – and soprano Sophie Junker is a personable Diana to tenor Makoto Sakurada’s youthfully lyrical Endymion. Best of all is baritone Roderick Williams’s Pan who renders the outrageous toadying distinctly palatable. Suzuki shapes everything with his trademark light touch, if he’s sometimes inclined to under-characterise the drama.