Bach: Cantatas, BWV 44, 59, 173 & 184

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Cantatas, BWV 44, 59, 173 & 184
PERFORMER: Yukari Nonoshita (soprano), Mutsumi Hatano (mezzo-soprano), Gerd Türk (tenor), Peter Kooy (bass); Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
CATALOGUE NO: CD-1271
This clutch of cantatas consists of works that Bach performed at Leipzig during May 1724 at Whitsuntide, Ascensiontide and Pentecost. As we have come to expect of this carefully planned and rigorously prepared series, the singing and playing are unfailingly accomplished. Two of the cantatas, BWV 184 and 173, are parodies of secular pieces that Bach performed for Prince Leopold at Cöthen. They are immediately captivating for their melodic aimiability and for the pervading dance character of many of their movements. The other two cantatas are very early Leipzig compositions, BWV 59 perhaps being Bach’s very first cantata following his new appointment. It is untypically laid out, beginning with a duet and concluding with a song-like bass aria. But Bach almost certainly had not intended it to end in this way and the present performance introduces another stanza from the Neumeister hymn on which other sections of the cantata are based.

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The two parody pieces come over particularly convincingly. The four soloists are on strong form, with outstanding contributions from Gerd Türk. Masaaki Suzuki captures the airy, dance-oriented spirit of the individual movements, and the choir and instrumentalists of Bach Collegium Japan make a favourable impression. Occasional weaknesses in the remaining cantatas marginally dent their otherwise overall excellence. One of the most immediately conspicuous of these occurs in the opening of BWV 44 – the earlier of two cantatas bearing this title – where there are moments of insecure oboe-playing. Even so, it only mildly impaired my enjoyment of a commendable, sometimes thought-provoking achievement. Nicholas Anderson