Bach: Cantatas: Widerstehe doch ser Sünde, BWV 54; Ich habe genug, BWV 82; Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust, BWV 170

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Cantatas: Widerstehe doch ser Sünde, BWV 54; Ich habe genug, BWV 82; Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust, BWV 170
PERFORMER: Nathalie Stutzmann (contralto); Hanover Band/Roy Goodman
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 62655
A cycle of Bach cantatas, made in Japan, seems an unlikely project for the Swedish label BIS. But on the evidence of this second volume, it could prove a very canny decision indeed. Masaaki Suzuki’s period-instrument ensemble plays stylishly, and the well-drilled choir makes an equally strong impression. At times the approach is perhaps too reverential, but the soloists are reliable (tenor Gerd Türk especially so in the langourously beautiful Cantata 131).

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After this level of accomplishment, the coarse orchestral sounds at the opening of the Auvidis disc come as an unwelcome shock. Things improve later on, especially when Christophe Coin takes up a five-stringed cello for the three arias – one per cantata – with violoncello piccolo accompaniment. Andreas Scholl stands out among the soloists; the French choir is little more than adequate. I’d love to hear Scholl tackle the marvellous solo Cantata 170, Vergnügte Ruh, with its tortuous, chromatic central aria; Nathalie Stuztmann’s new account with the Hanover Band is accomplished in its own way, but her rich contralto is more full-bodied than we have come to expect in this music. I’d also quibble with some of her speeds – the opening aria of Cantata 170 strikes me as too slow, the middle not nearly slow enough – but it makes a pleasant change to hear Ich habe genug sung by an alto rather than the customary bass.

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The solo Cantatas Nos 202 and 210 on the Berlin Classics disc are taken respectively by Edith Mathis (secure, if rather bland) and Lucia Popp (uncomfortable with the high tessitura, but urgent and musical). Peter Schreier’s conducting is prim and proper. Stephen Maddock