Bach: Cantata No. 56; Cantata No. 82; Cantata No. 158

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Cantata No. 56; Cantata No. 82; Cantata No. 158
PERFORMER: Olaf Bär (bass), Scottish CO and chorus/Peter Schreier
CATALOGUE NO: CDC7 54453 DDD
This disc unites Bach’s three cantatas calling only for a bass soloist (with chorus for the chorales). All are works of resignation, expressing a longing for the comfort of death; and Nos. 56 and 82 belong among Bach’s best known and most beautiful compositions. No. 56 opens with a striking setting of the words ‘Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen’ (Gladly will I bear the cross), with the syllable ‘Kreuz’ punningly falling on a note with a sharp, and a long stepwise melisma conveying the idea of carrying. The same cantata also contains one of Bach’s most vivid recitatives, in which life is likened to a sea journey: the wave-like figuration of the solo cello part ceases the moment the traveller safely reaches land. No. 82, ‘Ich habe genug’, begins with an intensely expressive aria with obbligato oboe, forcibly reminiscent of the St Matthew Passion in its atmosphere; and it also includes the famous slumber aria ‘Schlummert ein’.

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It is a pleasure indeed to hear this wonderful music sung by so intelligent and fervent an artist as Olaf Bär, and to have it sensitively performed on modern instruments. Douglas Boyd’s oboe playing, in particular, is a constant delight. My enjoyment was marred only by some exaggerated phrasing in the instrumental parts – not least in ‘Schlummert ein’. Warmly recommended. Misha Donat