WORKS: Cantatas, BWV 82 & 199
PERFORMER: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (mezzo-soprano); Orchestra of Emmanuel Music/Craig Smith
CATALOGUE NO: 7559-79692-2
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson is best known for her outstandingly successful roles in Baroque opera and oratorio, notably those of Handel. While she is no stranger to Bach’s cantatas, this is her first solo disc, for which she has chosen two works whose vocal line lies within Bach’s usual mezzo-soprano range and which she has already presented on stage in productions by Peter Sellars. Ich habe genug, the better known piece (BWV 82), must have been one of the composer’s favourites since he prepared versions of it for three different voice ranges, and continued to make small but telling adjustments until shortly before his death. Hunt Lieberson sings Bach’s third version, in C minor, dating from the mid- to late 1730s. The character of her voice is well suited to the prevailing mood of the piece, and its celebrated, centrally placed aria ‘Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen’ is very beautifully sung. Yet Hunt Lieberson shows a tendency in both cantatas to scoop up to notes and, less frequently, to swoop down upon them. The mannerism is not an integral part of her technique and her respect for pure intervals elsewhere is exemplary, so it seems a pity that it should intrude upon her natural, unaffected expressive vocabulary, which serves Bach’s music uncommonly well.
The modern-instrument Orchestra of Emmanuel Music accompanies sympathetically and there are some excellent contributions from the obbligato oboist. Tempi are mostly effective, though that allotted to the first aria of BWV 199 feels over-indulgently slow. Hunt Lieberson’s BWV 82 is rewarding on many levels and has few rivals, but readers may prefer Emma Kirkby’s recording with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra of BWV 199. Nicholas Anderson