Bach – Cantatas Volume 46

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COMPOSERS: JS Bach
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Cantatas, Vol. 46: BWV 17, 19, 45, 102; plus alternative (transverso) version of tenor aria from BWV 102
PERFORMER: Hana Blazíková (soprano), Robin Blaze (countertenor), Gerd Türk (tenor), Peter Kooij (bass); Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
CATALOGUE NO: BIS SACD-1851 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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Bach’s response to a lighter work-load in 1726 was to write some huge opening choral movements, both in length (BWV 45 has 228 bars) and in scale (BWV 19 includes oboes trumpets and mighty drums).

Such dense textures tax the resonant acoustic of the Chapel of Kobe Shoin Women’s University and, with recording balance placing the choir some way behind the instruments, the warlike violence – ‘…strife…enraged serpent…hellish dragon’ – of BWV 19 is dulled.

John Eliot Gardiner, with the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists, is much more ferocious, faster, and more thrilling. Similarly, Suzuki’s choral voices are hard put to compete with instruments in unison with them in BWV 17. 

Solos fare very well however, and Bach too is at his best. The opening note of oboe, then countertenor, in BWV 102’s first aria is a staggeringly simple yet effective setting of grief; the springy rhythms and unashamed folk-style of the tenor’s aria in BWV 17 vividly reflect the cured leper dancing his way home. (The recitative introducing this is a striking example of Bach’s special narrative style, recalling the Passion evangelists.)

The trio texture of two oboes d’amore and bass opening the soprano aria of BWV 19 is exquisite, their tone excellently matched by Hana Blažíková as she enters to expand the texture to a quartet. 

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Another fine disc in Suzuki’s on-going journey, particularly when the forces are reduced to chamber scale. George Pratt