This clutch of Bach cantatas includes both new issues and reissues. The reissues feature three of Bach’s best loved works in cantata form. ‘Ich habe genug’ (BWV 82), ‘Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten’ (BWV 202), and ‘Was mir behagt’ (BWV 208) popularly known as the Hunting Cantata. The first two are entrusted to David Thomas and Emma Kirkby, respectively. I did not much enjoy these performances when they were first issued, 20 years ago, and time has not lent enchantment to them. Andrew Parrott’s direction seems austere and lustreless, weighed down, perhaps, by all kinds of dogma and new orthodoxies which were raging at the time. Much more alluring versions of BWV 82 are provided by Matthias Goerne (Decca), and by Fischer-Dieskau in a recording reissued in the DG Archiv Originals series. As for BWV 202, Emma Kirkby far surpasses her earlier version in a recent recording with Christopher Hogwood (Decca). The Hunting Cantata is altogether more successful, with Kirkby in the role of Pales, goddess of the flock. Bach’s immortal aria ‘Sheep may safely graze’ is sung by her with eloquence and warmth.
The remaining discs form part of ongoing series. John Eliot Gardiner approaches journey’s end with two volumes of Trinity cantatas, each containing works of outstanding beauty. Two which make special claims on the attention are BWV 199 for soprano voice, and BWV 105, whose expressive intensity is sustained with consummate mastery. Hearing this performance it is impossible to doubt Gardiner’s deep personal involvement in the music. There is nothing clinical or hidebound by confining orthodoxy here. BWV 199 is sung by Magdalena Kožená, a soprano who has already proved her strengths in Bach and Handel.
Ton Koopman’s tenth volume of complete cantatas contains ten such works. I cannot sense so much emotional involvement here, but the results are, nonetheless, often effective. The solo line-up is mainly good and the choir and orchestra bright and efficient. There are some colossal masterpieces in this album, from among which I must cite BWV 119, 130 and 180. The series strengthens as it progresses. Nicholas Anderson