Bach: Cantatas, BWV 2, 20 & 176

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Cantatas, BWV 2, 20 & 176
PERFORMER: Johannette Zomer (soprano), Ingeborg Danz (contralto), Jan Kobow (tenor), Peter Kooy (bass); Collegium Vocale Gent/Philippe Herreweghe
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901791
Philippe Herreweghe continues his selective and mainly satisfying survey of Bach’s church cantatas with three works for Trinity Sunday and the two following Sundays – high-quality products belonging to Bach’s second Leipzig year of cantata composition. The most extended and varied of them is O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort (BWV 20). Johann Rist’s noble and stirring hymn has been adapted to accommodate Bach’s 11-movement piece, which is arranged in two parts. It is a serious, sometimes stern reflection upon eternity which begins with a French Overture incorporating a partly fugal chorus built upon a chromatic subject. Herreweghe handles this section of the work with elegance, poise and textural clarity, and he wins me over elsewhere to a piece which I’ve found at times unapproachable. In addition, Peter Kooy, whose bass recitative in BWV 2 was woolly and disappointing, projects his two fine arias – the second of them in partnership with a trumpet – with authority. Ingeborg Danz is also an appealing member of the solo team, declaiming her recitative and duet with sensibility and compassion.

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If I have a reservation about the performances as a whole then it is that Bach’s imagery, sometimes powerful and extrovert, is a shade under-played. Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s trumpeter in BWV 20 introduces a splendid sense of theatre in the bass aria, auf’, which is lacking here. But I am grateful to all concerned for raising the profile of three often underrated works. Nicholas Anderson