COMPOSERS: JS Bach
WORKS: Cantatas, Vol. 9: BWV 36, 61, 62 & 132
PERFORMER: Gerlinde Sämann (soprano), Petra Noskaiová (mezzo-soprano), Christoph Genz (tenor), Jan Van der Crabben (bass); La Petite Bande/Sigiswald Kuijken
CATALOGUE NO: ACC 25309
Among current cantata series Sigiswald Kuijken’s has a distinctive place, his one-to-a-part voices and few instruments achieving striking delicacy. Particularly telling is his lightweight bass-line – he uses no 16’ violone or double bass, and argues convincingly for violoncello da spalla, a miniature cello small enough to rest on the player’s arm, and proportionately gentler in tone.
His vocal soloists sing with disarming simplicity and ease in arias, and blend superbly in ensemble. The Leuven Predikherenkerk’s acoustic is very resonant indeed – I timed five seconds of reverberation – but the scale of Kuijken’s forces, enhanced by the spatial distinctiveness of surround-sound, produces remarkable transparency.
Cantatas 62 and 36 are from Leipzig, at low Baroque pitch. BWV 62 opens with a breathtaking chorus with oboes and strings, Bach in his most exuberant concerto style. A minuet aria for tenor and oboe with strings dances with delightful ease. BWV 36 includes a tenor chorale wrapped in feverish allegro molto oboes d’amore and continuo, and a heavenly soprano and muted solo violin duet.
But much as I enjoyed these, two early Weimar cantatas held me enthralled. Here pitch is a tone higher, adding brilliance to strings and voices yet, to their credit, without a trace of strain. BWV 61 includes a light-footed tenor aria with deferred cadences adding extra impulsion, and bass aria in which strings knock firmly at the Advent door in taught pizzicato chords.
The opening number of BWV 132 has soprano soaring around top A (B flat in modern currency) duetting with a wonderfully fluid oboe. A rare treat, Kuijken – and Bach – at their very best. George Pratt