Bach: O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht, BWV 118

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LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht, BWV 118
PERFORMER: His Majestys Consort of Voices, His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts/Timothy Roberts
This ‘Bach Album’ is by way of homage to JS Bach, paid by His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts of London. It’s an engaging programme, mainly of transcriptions, prepared by Timothy Roberts who directs proceedings from the organ. Instrumental items, solo and ensemble are interspersed with pieces for vocal solo and vocal quartet. After the richly sonorous, colourful and spirited opening Sinfonia, borrowed from the Cantata Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir (BWV 29), the mood of the programme changes abruptly to one of contemplation with five diversely treated settings of the chorale melody ‘Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir’. At the heart of the sequence lie the 14 Canons (BWV 1087) on the first eight bass notes of the Goldberg Variations aria, played by cornetts and sackbuts, and the very beautiful motet O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht (BWV 118), once upon a time included in Bach’s sacred cantata canon. Bach in fact called for three sackbuts and a cornett, as well as two ‘litui’ (B flat horns?) in the earlier of two surviving versions, so very little had to be changed in the present instance. Voices are pleasingly balanced with instruments, though on occasion I found the countertenor strand too penetrating. Enjoyable, but I confess to having felt a surfeit of sobriety from time to time. Nicholas Anderson