Bach: Une Cantate Imaginaire
For this ‘imaginary cantata’, contralto Nathalie Stutzmann has cherry picked some of the loveliest arias and sinfonias from Bach’s sacred and secular works, creating a musical kaleidoscope. It ranges from the pastel hues and pastoral rhythms of ‘Kommt, ihr angefochtnen Sünder’ and ‘Jesus bleibet meine Freude’, to the plangent shades of ‘Erbarme dich’, and from the transparent delicacy of ‘Vergiss mein nicht’, with its single lute accompaniment, to the vibrant splendour of the Gloria (BWV 191), complete with gleaming brass and timpani.
Stutzmann performs as soloist and director, imbuing these accounts with personality and vision. Her contralto is distinctive – at once voluptuous and androgynous, with an impressively wide range and sure technique – while her direction is idiosyncratic. At times, her approach seems mannered – articulation is exaggerated, expressive effects become overblown – and she takes the opening Sinfonia at such a lick that the instrumental passagework becomes garbled and the pulse erratic. Elsewhere, though, Stutzmann really captures the sublime quality of Bach’s sacred music, and the instrumentalists of Orfeo 55 shape the contours and paint the colours of his counterpoint with eloquent grace. The pristine recording throws the details into high relief.