Bach: Cantatas for the Liturgical Year Volume 10

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COMPOSERS: JS Bach
LABELS: Accent
WORKS: Cantatas, Vol. 10: BWV 11, 44, 86 &108
PERFORMER: Siri Thornhill (soprano), Petra Noskaiová (alto), Christoph Genz (tenor), Jan Van der Crabben (bass); La Petite Bande/Sigiswald Kuijken
CATALOGUE NO: ACC 25310

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Sigiswald Kuijken’s cantata project differs from the completist agenda of colleagues such as Suzuki, Koopman, or Gardiner, in that he’s content to allow a single cantata to represent each Sunday (and major Feast) of the church’s year.

Volume 10 squares up to the fourth, fifth and sixth Sundays after Easter – and to the sequence belongs Ascension Day, here represented by the 1735 Ascension Oratorio, Bach’s last ‘musical offering’ for that particular Feast. However he has arrived at his foursome, there’s no denying they make for an arresting disc – and if Kuijken was swayed by the elaborate violin obbligatos in BWV 108 and 86, who’s to argue when he plays them with such aplomb? 

The other major difference with ‘rival’ sets is that Kuijken is a firm believer in one-voice-to-a-part. Given the attention to detail and forceful polemic of his booklet notes, it comes as a huge – if not surprising – relief to find that the music-making itself is singularly free from pedantry and didacticism.

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The four singers are uneven and sometimes fail to ‘gel’ as a choir (the midpoint chorale of the Oratorio a good case in point), but each has eloquently expressive moments, while the playing of La Petite Bande steals the show. Eliot Gardiner is invariably more dramatic, Leonhardt’s Oratorio bristles with purposefulness, but Kuijken’s unobtrusive approach repays repeated listening. Paul Riley