JS Bach

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: JS Bach
LABELS: Outhere
ALBUM TITLE: Brahms: Cantatas
WORKS: Cantatas BWV 48, BWV 73, BWV 44 & BWV 109; plus Schelle: Komm, Jesu, komm
PERFORMER: Dorothee Mields (soprano), Damien Guillon (alto), Thomas Hobbs (tenor), Peter Kooij (bass); Collegium Vocale Gent/Philippe Herreweghe
CATALOGUE NO: LPH 012

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This is Philippe Herreweghe’s second disc of cantatas from Bach’s first year in Leipzig. I greatly enjoyed the first (LPH 012) and the music here is no less extraordinarily inventive and innovative. Some recording issues, too, are happily ironed out; soloists come from the three-to-a-part choir, but there’s more differentiation now between single voices and the full ensemble – BWV 109 contrasts soloists singing introductory phrases, with a chorus that’s distinctively more sonorous. Herreweghe is highly expressive, emphasising, for instance, the opening phrasing of BWV 48, a violin figure repeated three times then expanded, to complete its gentle, pleading statement.

Excellent soloists reflect their choral sensitivity, never assertive, but fluent, supple and admirably matched with accompanying instruments. Bach’s imagination was on fire in 1723-24: in the tenor aria ‘Vergiebt mir’ (BWV 48). He writes successive bars of two-beat time within a three-beat time signature, creating a metric uncertainty which simply can’t be resolved without sight of the notation. Thomas Hobbs’s delight in it is palpable. Peter Kooij’s prayerful ‘Herr, so du willt’ (BWV 73) is wrapped in string textures which then – a moment of magic – mutate to quietly rocking pizzicato. Formally too Bach breaks convention: BWV 44 opens not with chorus but with a tenor/bass duet, with oboes and continuo framing it with a trio. Recitative interrupts the opening chorus of BWV 73.

At times soloists could be a pace more forward, and the overall stereo span is narrow. But otherwise the recording serves these outstanding performers extremely well. Five solo voices sing Schelle’s ‘Komm Jesu komm’ as an exquisitely peaceful bonus.

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George Pratt