Bach: Cantatas, Vol. 6: BWV 50, 59, 69, 69a, 75, 76, 104, 179, 186 & 190

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: Cantatas, Vol. 6: BWV 50, 59, 69, 69a, 75, 76, 104, 179, 186 & 190
PERFORMER: Ruth Ziesak (soprano), Elisabeth von Magnus (alto), Paul Agnew (tenor), Klaus Mertens (bass)Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra &Choir/Ton Koopman
CATALOGUE NO: 3984-21629-2
Ton Koopman’s survey of Bach cantatas has, with Vol. 6, reached the great cycles of Leipzig church cantatas. Previous discs in the series have occasionally lapsed into blandness and it happens again here: ‘Fahr hin, abgottische Zunft’ (‘Out, ye idolatrous mob!’) from BWV 76 is performed with a baffling lack of fulminatory power. Yet this is mostly a fine set. The orchestral playing is sharp and sensitive, Paul Agnew and Klaus Mertens maintain their previous high standards and newcomer Ruth Ziesak is more vivacious than the pallid sopranos Koopman favoured on Vols 4 and 5. These particular cantatas, from Bach’s first year at Leipzig (1723-4), may not be among his best-known works, but they contain some wonderful music; Koopman’s team is especially winning on gentler pieces like BWV 186 and BWV 104.

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The Scholl/Herreweghe CD is distinguished by its marriage of beautiful sound and expressive intensity. The richly nuanced orchestral playing remains forceful throughout and Scholl imbues his beguiling voice with a fervent conviction. The haunting BWV 170 is superbly done, with ‘Wie jammern mich’ arrestingly slow; BWV 35, boasting splendid organ from Markus Märkl, makes a thrilling climax.

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Peter Schreier sings Bach’s only surviving cantata for solo tenor with two others once attributed to Bach but now ascribed, one apiece, to Hoffmann and Telemann. Schreier’s busy, declamatory style allies him to the older schools of performance practice, but he sings with a moving eloquence; the CPE Bach CO plays (on modern instruments) with graceful assurance. The Paulin Ensemble is a new period-instrument group. Its disc of two secular cantatas, though lacking the stylistic flair of more experienced players, is very listenable: Linda Perillo shines on the exquisite ‘Mit zarten’ from BWV 36b.