Bach: Cantatas, BWV 131, 152 & 161

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: ATMA
WORKS: Cantatas, BWV 131, 152 & 161
PERFORMER: Suzie LeBlanc (soprano), Jan Kobow (tenor), Stephen Varcoe (baritone); Theatre of Early Music/Daniel Taylor (countertenor)
CATALOGUE NO: ACD 2 2279
Canadian countertenor Daniel Taylor founded the Theatre of Early Music a couple of years ago. In this programme of early sacred cantatas by Bach he participates both as singer and director. BWV 131, Aus der Tiefen rufe ich (Out of the deep I have called) – the disc’s cover and tracklisting carelessly misspell the title – is perhaps Bach’s earliest cantata, dating from 1708 when he was at Mühlhausen. Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn (Walk in the path of faith, BWV 152) and Komm, du süsse Todesstunde (Come, sweet hour of death, BWV 161) are Weimar pieces dating from 1714 and 1716 respectively. These are one-voice-to-a-part performances which suit most of Bach’s early cantatas very well. The pros and cons of the approach are laid out in Bruce Haynesinteresting booklet note.

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The singing and playing are stylish and technically accomplished if, at times, expressively cool. This is particularly so in the singing of Jan Kobow, whose involvement in text and music lacks the warm responses of Stephen Varcoe, Suzie LeBlanc and Daniel Taylor, who caress the contours of Bach’s often extended phrases with affective fervour. Placing these performances in the current league-table is difficult. I found greater subtlety here than in Ton Koopman’s versions of the three works and much more in the way of stylistic propriety than those of Helmuth Rilling. Perhaps the deciding factor should be Komm, du süsse Todesstunde, where outstanding vocal contributions from Varcoe and from Taylor himself leave even Bach Collegium Japan some way behind. Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s recording must be discounted since he chose Bach’s later Leipzig version with its traversi flutes as opposed to recorders. Nicholas Anderson