Bach: Cantatas, Vol. 49

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

WORKS: Bach: Cantatas, Vol. 49: BWV 188; BWV 156; BWV 159; BWV 171
PERFORMER: Rachel Nicholls (soprano), Robin Blaze (countertenor), Gerd Türk (tenor), Peter Kooij (bass); Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki

There’s an element of chance in a chronological collection like this. We’ve arrived at 1728/9, when much of JS Bach’s output seems to have gone missing, or worse: BWV 188 was cut into strips of manuscript to be distributed as keepsakes. Nifty detective work has established that the missing Sinfonia was from a lost violin concerto, preserved in the Keyboard Concerto BWV 1052.
Here, on the organ, Masato Suzuki plays at a cracking pace and with hypnotic pulse. At the other expressive extreme is BWV 156’s Sinfonia with oboe solo – again familiar as a harpsichord concerto movement. I can’t imagine more beautifully long-breathed phrasing than oboist Masamitsu San’nomiya’s. But eclipsing all else is the aria that follows, its tenor weaving Bach’s logical counterpoint into unison strings and bass, choral sopranos interjecting lines of a chorale melody – and all bathed in the ethereal acoustic of the Kobe Shoin Chapel. I would buy the disc for this alone.
Another outstanding piece of compositional craftsmanship is the tenor aria of BWV 171. The accompanying string texture is entirely self-sufficient, as if the vocal line was added to a pre-existing trio-sonata movement. Certainly, much of Bach’s music for these two years was so-called ‘parody’, reworking earlier compositions; the same cantata contains a soprano aria from an earlier secular cantata, with a strikingly high violin obbligato, admirably played. 
Instruments in unison with the tenor occasionally mask his lowest register in the first aria of BWV 188. Otherwise, recording balance and quality, especially in optional SACD, match the sustained excellence of the whole volume. George Pratt