WORKS: Cantatas: BWV 40, 46, 60, 64, 65, 77, 81, 83, 89, 89a, 90
PERFORMER: Dorothea Röschmann (soprano), Bogna Bartosz, Elisabeth Van Magnus (alto), Jörg Dürmüller (tenor), Klaus Mertens (bass); Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir/Ton Koopman
CATALOGUE NO: 3984-25488-2
Koopman’s magnificent enterprise has reached 1723/4, Bach’s first year in Leipzig. He clearly had some spectacular instrumentalists, here pressed to their limits by Koopman’s often lively pace. Most striking are the slide trumpet (BWV 77) and wonderfully fluent oboes (BWV 109). Yet, paradoxically, so polished has period-instrument technique become that the counterpoint of tone-colours becomes obscured: in BWV 65, brassy low horns, silvery recorders and nasal oboes da caccia need clearer differentiation and perspective in the recording – for these cantatas include Bach at his most colourful. Strings tremble around allegorical Fear while oboes d’amore flutter nervously above (BWV 60); a virtual violin concerto opens BWV 83. Koopman expands the palette further with continuo organ, harpsichord and lute. Bach’s structural invention is boundless, too: the Nunc dimittis chant alternates with recitative in BWV 83; time and tempo change unexpectedly in BWV 167 – the surprises are endless.
Koopman’s forces are outstanding. The Amsterdam Baroque Choir remains warmly focused, thrillingly mercurial in some of the cruel figuration where Bach demands instrumental virtuosity from voices. Among the soloists are two newcomers, Röschmann, a soprano with a smiling, persuasive tone and Dürmüller, a tenor, fresh and ardent. Koopman remains inexhaustible as his enlightenment and exuberance continue to reveal the wonders of this vast repertoire. George Pratt