Bach: Wo zwei und drei versammelt sind’ from Cantata No. 42; ;Schlummert ein’ from Cantata No. 82

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Wo zwei und drei versammelt sind’ from Cantata No. 42; ;Schlummert ein’ from Cantata No. 82
PERFORMER: Angelika Kirchschlager (mezzo-soprano); Venice Baroque Orchestra/Andrea Marcon
CATALOGUE NO: SK 89924
We live in a golden age of Bach performance and, with outstanding cantata discs available from the likes of Scholl and Goerne, KozŠená and Fink, expectations are high. So I’m afraid this latest compilation of arias simply won’t do. It would be impossible for Angelika Kirchschlager to sing less than musically, and her supple, soft-grained mezzo is always a pleasure to hear. But she is not a natural Baroque performer, still less a Bachian; and the period instruments of the Venice Baroque Orchestra under Andrea Marcon show considerably less grasp of style than Kirchschlager herself.

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This is generalised, unsearching playing which complacently shirks decisions about balance and texture that would give life and shapeliness both to individual phrasing and long-term structure. Longer arias, such as ‘Wo zwei und drei versammelt sind’ from Cantata No. 42, seem to lose their way. The great ‘Schlummert ein’ from Cantata No. 82 becomes a lullaby in a way Bach didn’t quite intend: its articulation is flaccid, its pacing pedestrian. And the fact that the instrumentalists don’t think vocally enough in turn affects the inflection of the voice.

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Kirchschlager’s ‘Bereite dich Zion’ at least strings some Christmas decorations along the line, above a jogging accompaniment; but the solo casting of the ‘Passion’ chorale is surely misguided. Hilary Finch