Bach: Cantatas, BWV 8, 33 & 113

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WORKS: Cantatas, BWV 8, 33 & 113
PERFORMER: Yukari Nonoshita (soprano), Robin Blaze (countertenor), Gerd Türk (tenor), Peter Kooy (bass); Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
BWV 8 is an intensely felt cantata, expressing the fear of death and reassurance of salvation. Masaaki Suzuki takes the magnificent opening chorus quite fast, hurrying both pulse and the high repeated flute notes, usually believed to represent the tiny bell which announced Lutheran funeral services. (The booklet notes suggest a complex analogy with the mechanism of a clock: if true, Bach was no horologist.) Herreweghe, my chosen comparison, creates a relaxed, hypnotic pulse with, paradoxically, a greater sense of musical direction. In both recordings, Peter Kooy sings the rumbustious bass aria ‘Doch weichet’ with superb articulation of almost instrumental clarity. Suzuki spiritedly drives the exhilarating, concerto-like opening chorus of BWV 33, two oboes and strings chasing each other headlong towards the cadences: barely a beat lacks semiquavers somewhere in the texture. Robin Blaze glides through the angular countertenor aria without a trace of hoot, impeccably tuned muted violins reflecting ‘faltering steps’ above a striking pizzicato bass-line. I compared BWV 113 with John Eliot Gardiner’s recording from St Davids Cathedral, part of his 2000 Bach Cantata Pilgrimage. He is profoundly expressive, oboes in the opening chorus sighing deeply within the line which Suzuki expands more spaciously. Though Suzuki has the edge in the cruelly exposed unison violin tuning of the first aria (Gardiner’s live recording allows no second chances), Rachel Beckett’s flute obbligato above Mark Padmore’s tenor aria is quite unbeatable for Gardiner, as is the final duet, soprano and alto daring each other not to breathe. But in all, a fine recording, warmed by the excellent acoustic of Kobe Shoin Women’s University chapel. George Pratt