Bach – Motets

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

WORKS: Motets, BWV 118, 225-30, Anh.159
PERFORMER: Yukari Nonoshita, Aki Matsui (soprano), Damien Guillon (countertenor), Satoshi Mizukoshi (tenor), Dominik Wörner (bass); Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki


The benign-looking score of Bach’s six Motets conceals a host of textual questions. Why has only Lobet den Herrn an independent continuo line (and is this four-part piece actually by Bach)? The eight-part Der Geist hilft is provided with instrumental parts doubling voices; are the others to be performed a cappella? Two four-part choirs are often pitted against each other in dialogue or contrast; should they be spatially separated if voices later converge in four-part counterpoint?

Masaaki Suzuki solves these issues boldly and imaginatively. Here he uses continuo support throughout (surely right) and,
rather than create a wide spatial separation, the depth of surround-sound and tonal contrasts clearly differentiates between double choirs. Furthermore, instruments double voices most enterprisingly in two more of the eight-part motets, Singet dem Herrn and Fürchte dich nicht.   

The performance is, as you’d now expect from his Collegium, excellent. Voices range from delicate soloists to a splendidly light and transparent 18-strong chorus. Instrumental support is discreet but colourful. A violone, an octave below the bass-line, resolves some moments when harmony would otherwise be upside-down (clear evidence of the need for such support).


In BWV 118, a single movement of excruciating beauty, quiet horns and reed instruments enrich the most heavenly legato singing. By contrast, Suzuki endows some movements with exceptional vitality and fast tempos. The opening of Singet dem Herrn is a case in point, but a sense of bounding ‘one-in-a-bar’ lends it an exciting sense of propulsion. The recording makes its distinctive mark among many competitors. I enjoyed it hugely. George Pratt