Bach: Cantatas: BWV 78, 99 & 114

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

WORKS: Cantatas: BWV 78, 99 & 114
PERFORMER: Yukari Nonoshita (soprano), Daniel Taylor (countertenor), Makoto Sakurada (tenor), Peter Kooy (bass); Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
Bach Collegium Japan and its director Masaaki Suzuki celebrate the 25th instalment of their Bach cantata survey with a special slipcased volume which includes a booklet containing a short essay by Peter Wollny. From a musical standpoint, too, this issue stands out, with three breathtakingly original cantatas from 1724-5. These pieces, which Bach composed, rehearsed and performed week after week, must rank among the most staggering achievements of human endeavour. The present cantatas belong to the Trinity season of the church year. The crowning achievement here is Jesu, der du meine Seele (BWV 78) which is wonderfully sustained throughout in every minute detail. After its opening passacaglia-cast lament follows a canonic duet which breathes the air of the opera house – we may forever speculate upon its reception by the conservative orthodox Lutherans of Leipzig. Yukari Nonoshita (soprano) and the excellent Canadian countertenor Daniel Taylor offer a sparkling and vital account of it, comfortably outclassing all rival versions with the exception of the very earliest of them on a disc recorded by Felix Prohaska in the mid-Fifties (Vanguard). All else in this special issue is of a comparably elevated order. Bass Peter Kooy sings his single aria (BWV 78) with authority and is impeccable in his warmly responsive declamation of recitative. Tenor Makoto Sakurada makes a generally favourable impression though his vocal timbre in the uppermost register sometimes fails to please. The 12-voice choir, from which the four soloists emerge, is very good indeed and the instrumental ensemble as polished as I can recall ever having heard it. Bach must have had a flute wizard around at the time, for each of these cantatas contains prominent and virtuosic writing for the instrument. Flautist Liliko Maeda’s limpid, articulate and sometimes dazzling contributions set the seal on an issue whose seemingly greater expressive commitment than that found in some previous issues is profoundly satisfying. Bravo! Nicholas Anderson