WORKS: Complete Cantatas, Vol. 7: BWV 24, 25, 67, 95, 105, 136, 144, 147, 148, 173, 181 & 184
PERFORMER: Lisa Larsson (soprano), Bogna Bartosz, Elisabeth von Magnus (alto), Gerd Türk (tenor), Klaus Mertens (bass); Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir/Ton Koopman
CATALOGUE NO: 3984-23141-2
Bach was never more prolific, nor his imagination more fervid, than during his first years as Thomaskantor in Leipzig, where Koopman has arrived in his 20-volume project. Several of the cantatas in this volume haven’t been revived since Rilling’s modern instrument series or Harnoncourt’s period performances – inspired, though by recent standards technically flawed.
They are wonderfully colourful, evocative works. Where else will you hear an ensemble of slide trumpet, flute, oboes d’amore, strings and choir (BWV 67) or of pulsating upper strings accompanying an oboe and soprano duet (BWV 105)? The music is saturated in imagery – a tolling funeral bell (BWV 95), violent changes of pace depicting God’s wrath (BWV 136), ‘fears quietened’ by constantly lengthening note-values (BWV 105).
Every issue of the journal Early Music for the last two years has included impassioned debate on Bach’s forces. Koopman has staunchly defended using what Bach apparently wanted, whether he had it or not. Aurally, his case here is compelling, with 18 singers, a handful of strings, and superb wind and stratospheric brass. Nor can I fault his solo team, ringing some refreshing changes from earlier volumes. His tempi, urgent as ever, are almost invariably convincing, his dances light-footed. Simply, an outstanding accomplishment. George Pratt