Bach: Cantatas, Vol. 11: BWV 5, 7, 10, 41, 94, 113, 115, 127 & 139

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WORKS: Cantatas, Vol. 11: BWV 5, 7, 10, 41, 94, 113, 115, 127 & 139
PERFORMER: Sibylla Rubens (soprano), Annette Markert (alto), Christoph Prégardien (tenor), Klaus Mertens (bass); Amsterdam Baroque Choir & Orchestra/Ton Koopman
CATALOGUE NO: 8573-80215-2
From a repertoire viewpoint, Bach cantata releases could hardly be surpassed by this latest volume of Ton Koopman’s projected complete survey. In the course of three discs we encounter one consummate masterpiece after another from the composer’s second and greatest Leipzig cycle. After early ups-and-downs, Koopman’s musicians have now settled into a corporate relationship which, at its strongest, offers rewarding results. Nowhere is this more evident, perhaps, than in the present line-up of vocal soloists which Koopman, as in one or two previous volumes, has ditched the adult male alto in favour of a mezzo-soprano. She is Annette Markert, whose vocal timbre is well suited to this repertoire, as you will hear in one of Bach’s most extended and deeply affecting alto arias, with oboe d’amore and strings, in BWV 115. Indeed, this release is conspicuous for the many alluring partnerships of voices and instruments, from among which I must mention Sibylla Rubens, the oboist and the two recorder players (BWV 127), Christoph Prégardien and the violoncello piccolo (why not viola as Bach indicated?) in BWV 5, and Klaus Mertens with the continuo team (BWV 10). But the trumpet, admittedly a demanding role, in the bass aria of BWV 5 offers a pale reflection of Bach’s declamatory, hell-threatening text. All-in-all, an accomplished achievement though the virtues are just not plentiful enough to topple Harnoncourt and Leonhardt from their elevated position on Mount Parnassus; and the distant, somewhat fuzzy choral perspective diminishes the character of the many fine opening vocal fantasias, especially that of BWV 127. Nicholas Anderson