JS Bach Cantatas, Vol. 53
The acoustic of Kobe Shoin Women’s University Chapel has coloured Masaaki Suzuki’s whole Bach series with an unmistakable sound quality and, for listeners with SACD, a striking three-dimensional warmth, depth and spatial focus. It works outstandingly well in the ‘Duetto’ movement of BWV 9 where, in masterly contrapuntal invention, flute and oboe d’amore chase each other in exact imitation while soprano and alto do the same with their independent melody line – ‘double canon, four-in-two’. A similar instrumental duo, violin and bassoon, is less distinct in BWV 177, where solo tenor and bass conceal the bubbling bassoon. Gerd Türk is in fine voice, as are Robin Blaze and Peter Kooij. Hana Bla‑íková is curiously uneven – in her upper register hard-toned, lower down too restrained – as she duets with oboe da caccia obbligato in BWV 177.
The three cantatas are all late, from 1732 onwards, and each includes some striking example of Bach’s invention. BWV 9 opens with a virtual concerto for flute and oboe d’amore that continues totally independently of the vocal counterpoint below the soprano chorale melody. BWV 97 has an Ouverture, complete with typically French wind trio episodes. In BWV 177’s opening, the orchestra again ignores the chorus-lines completely, while Bach sets the original 4/4 time chorale in a light-footed triple time.
Suzuki’s performance forces, 12-voice choir (including soloists) and three-to-a-part violins, are superbly clean and tidy while allowing him a generous dynamic and dramatic range. Highly commended.