Bach: Cantatas, BWV 25, 50, 64, 69a & 77

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WORKS: Cantatas, BWV 25, 50, 64, 69a & 77
PERFORMER: Yukari Nonoshita, Yoshie Hida (soprano), Robin Blaze (countertenor), Kirsten Sollek-Avella (alto), Gerd Türk, Makoto Sakurada (tenor), Peter Kooy (bass); Concerto Palatino, Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
Bach Collegium Japan’s stimulating survey of the composer’s sacred cantatas continues with a 13th volume. It contains three works which Bach performed during the Trinity season of his first year at Leipzig (1723), another, BWV 64, which was first heard during the Christmas festival of the same year, and the presumably fragmentary chorus in eight vocal parts with brass, timpani, woodwind and strings, ‘Nun ist das Heil’ (BWV 50). This release is well up to the high standards of past issues. Among the many enjoyable features of the performances are the fresh-sounding upper strands of the 16-voice choir, the sensitive and mainly secure instrumental playing and the excellence of the soloists. Perhaps the choral tenors and basses occasionally lack clarity – I felt this in the darkly coloured opening movement of BWV 25 – but they spring to life both in the mighty torso of the Michaelmas ‘Nun ist das Heil’ and in the splendid double-fugal chorus which provides the focal point of BWV 69a. It is perhaps worth noting that the solo alto line in this volume of the series, at least, is shared between a countertenor (BWV 64) and a female alto. Countertenors, however accomplished, do not always provide convincing results in Bach’s music, and a woman’s voice of a boyish character, such as that heard here, can offer greater expressive satisfaction. Recorded sound is clear and vivid, but the bass aria of BWV 25 is wrongly attributed, both on the box and in the booklet, to a tenor. Nicholas Anderson