Bach: Cantatas, BWV 48, 89, 109 & 148

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WORKS: Cantatas, BWV 48, 89, 109 & 148
PERFORMER: Midori Suzuki (soprano), Robin Blaze (countertenor), Gerd Türk (tenor), Chiyuki Urano (bass); Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
Vol. 14 of Bach Collegium Japan’s survey of Bach’s sacred cantatas contains four works for Trinity which the composer performed during his first years as Leipzig’s Thomaskantor, in 1723. A departure from previous issues in the series lies in the reduction of choral strength from 16 voices (sometimes more) to an ensemble of 12. The result is pleasing, with an added brightness in the soprano strand, and an enhanced textural clarity which can be heard to advantage in the anguished, contrapuntally based opening of ‘Ich elender Mensch’. These artists are forming an ever closer rapport with the music of Bach’s cantatas and, as they do so, the performances become less confined in matters of expression. There is a fervour in this singing and playing which is complemented by a recognition of the lyricism which informs each and every one of the arias and choruses. Occasionally in past issues I have remarked upon an uneasy balance between scholarship and the realisation of the music’s expressive potential. A convincing rapprochement has been achieved here which gives the performances of all four cantatas a clear lead over any rivals. Only one off-pitch clarino trumpet note in the opening chorus of Bringet dem Herrn disturbed for a split second my otherwise uninterrupted enjoyment. Nicholas Anderson