Bach: Cantatas, Vol. 15: BWV 52, 60, 116 & 140
Sigiswald Kuijken has carved out a distinctive niche among the numerous collections of Bach Cantata recordings. Creating his own one-year cantata cycle, he can cherry-pick from the 199 available pieces – so this disc includes BWV140, ‘Wachet auf’, an ‘extra’ for the occasional years when the ecclesiastical calendar has a 27th Sunday after Trinity, and the highly unusual BWV60, ‘O Ewigkeit’, with three allegorical characters: Fear, Hope and the Holy Spirit. His recordings have a characteristic lightness of texture, with only one voice to each part, near-minimal strings and no 16-foot bass sound below the cello. All this works well in the arias, transparently scored and beautifully balanced; ‘Immerhin’, the first of BWV52, is a lovely warp and weft of silken lines – soprano, two violins and ‘basse de violin’. The opera-inspired drama of BWV60 is astonishingly depicted – Fear trembles in recitative, the Holy Spirit reassures in alternating arioso.
The opening ‘chorus’ of BWV116, ‘Du Friedefürst’, is exhilarating, with springy up-beat rhythms from oboes d’amore and strings wrapped round the sustained chorale from the four (solo) voices. I’m less convinced by some denser textures. Brandenburg Concerto No. 1, borrowed as the Sinfonia of BWV52, has so many contrapuntal lines vying for prominence that, without more selective balancing, individual parts are masked by the whole. Violins particularly, with featherweight bows, are subsumed without supporting oboes. Natural horns are disconcertingly careless about tuning F/F sharp (a single note, tweaked up or down by lip pressure).
Still, an enjoyable addition to Kuijken’s series, with inspired moments in performance.