Bach: Cantatas, Vol. 12: BWV 8, 78, 91, 99, 107, 111, 114, 116, 121, 124 & 135

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WORKS: Cantatas, Vol. 12: BWV 8, 78, 91, 99, 107, 111, 114, 116, 121, 124 & 135
PERFORMER: Lisa Larsson, Sibylla Rubens (soprano), Annette Markert (mezzo-soprano), Christoph Prégardien (tenor), Klaus Mertens (bass); Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir/Ton Koopman
CATALOGUE NO: 8573-85842-2
Here are further instalments of the two current rival series of Bach cantatas. Ton Koopman’s enterprise is now comfortably into the composer’s great second cycle of Leipzig pieces which began in Trinity 1724. Masaaki Suzuki’s latest discs, on the other hand, contain cantatas belonging to Bach’s first Leipzig year and include two occasional works, BWV 194 written for the dedication of a restored organ in nearby Störmthal, and BWV 119 which honours the Leipzig town council. These are both contained in Vol. 16 of the series. Each of the two directors with his ensemble of singers and instrumentalists has his own followers and detractors, yet the high standard of performance in both series sometimes makes choice between them difficult. It has seemed to me on occasion that Suzuki has a more intuitive and spontaneous rapport with his singers than Koopman. Koopman’s responses, perhaps, are livelier in Bach’s many dance-oriented movements, choral and solo, alike. His 12th volume has many delights, and his solo vocal team has the edge on Suzuki’s at the moment — the soprano/alto duet in BWV 78 is very beautifully sung, as is the opening chorus of BWV 8. Yet elsewhere, some of the choruses sound uncommitted and consequently lacklustre – the opening movement of BWV 135 is a case in point. What Koopman lacks in disclosing the inner fervour and tensions that lie within the relationship between text and music is more readily found in Suzuki’s weightier but no less lyrical understanding of these miraculous works. In short, the two approaches are in some measure complementary. No single interpreter is ever likely to satisfy your every need but a mélange of these two, with Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Gustav Leonhardt (Teldec), Philippe Herreweghe (Harmonia Mundi) and Karl Richter (DG Archiv), should provide stimulus, enjoyment and anger in fluctuating measure. Nicholas Anderson