WORKS: Cantatas, BWV 182, 12 & 172
PERFORMER: Susanne Rydén (soprano), Steven Rickards (countertenor), John Elwes (tenor), Michael Schopper (bass); Bach Ensemble/Joshua Rifkin
CATALOGUE NO: DOR-93231
Bach composed about 20 cantatas for Weimar and Joshua Rifkin has chosen three of them for his new disc. They date from 1714 and are probably the earliest of a group which spanned a little under two years. The texts are by the Weimar court librarian Salomo Franck, whose exclusion of recitative is a feature common to all three of them. This was a period when Bach was developing his skill as a composer, exploring foreign styles, principally Italian and French, and we can perhaps sense some of the youthful exuberance which he must have felt when blending them with the native discipline of Lutheran hymnody.
Intimate and small-scale aspects of these Weimar pieces lend themselves readily to Rifkin’s one-voice-to-a-part principle and, as he himself remarks in an introductory note, the high pitch of the Weimar chapel music produces a result which is strikingly differentiated and vivid in its impact. The Bach Ensemble is on strong form, with notably fine contributions from leader Stanley Ritchie, oboist Stephen Hammer and trumpeter Niklas Eklund. I enjoyed the mainly outstanding singing of the soloists, too, and especially that of Susanne Rydén, whose near faultless intonation and crystal clear declamation also admits of expressive fervour and warmth of colour. Only Michael Schopper’s uneven delivery and seemingly built-in vibrato failed to please, the latter consorting uncomfortably with the evenly sustained technique of the others. The performances of BWV 12 and 182 outshine the comparably small forces mustered by Jeffrey Thomas (Koch), but cannot fairly be judged against the larger competing groups. Nicholas Anderson