Bach: Cantatas, BWV 202, 203, 204

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LABELS: Hanssler
WORKS: Cantatas, BWV 202, 203, 204
PERFORMER: Sibylla Rubens (soprano), Dietrich Henschel (bass); Bach Collegium Stuttgart/Helmuth Rilling
Happy the couples for whom Bach wrote wedding cantatas! BWV 202 and BWV 210 are two of his most attractive and charming works. BWV 202, the earlier and shorter of the pair, evokes the joys of both spring and true love in a succession of lively dance tunes, while BWV 210’s tongue-in-cheek account of music’s effect on lovers includes five exquisite arias, not least the teasing lullaby ‘Ruhet hie’. Emma Kirkby sings these cantatas – plus three songs from Anna Magdalena’s music-book – with a natural fluency and grace that is always engaging, despite a few uncomfortable moments in the highest registers. She’s nimbly supported by an Academy ensemble that features Andrew Manze (violin), Frank de Bruine (oboe) and Lisa Beznosiuk (flute) in the various obbligato roles. Their version of BWV 202 may not quite surpass the beautiful 1993 recording by Nancy Argenta and Ensemble Sonnerie, but they’re no less responsive to the music’s balmy affirmations of sunshine and romance.


Not so Helmuth Rilling and Sibylla Rubens: his liking for heavily accented rhythms and her slightly hard-edged soprano are singularly ill-suited to BWV 202’s tender smiles. Rubens impresses more in the long, moralistic BWV 204, where her forceful approach lends a bracing edge to the text’s didacticism, though Rilling’s accompaniment again seems hard-driven. (Ton Koopman’s version, on Vol. 4 of his Complete Cantatas cycle, is much more relaxed and buoyant.) BWV 203, a brief cantata for bass and harpsichord, is a minor work of doubtful authenticity. Graham Lock