Carolyn Sampson and Andreas Wolf sing JS Bach’s wedding cantata

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COMPOSERS: JS Bach
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach
WORKS: Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten, BWV 202; Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn, BWV 152; Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut, BWV 199
PERFORMER: Carolyn Sampson (soprano), Andreas Wolf (bass-baritone); Freiburg Baroque Orchestra/Petra Müllejans
CATALOGUE NO: HMM902252

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Who were the married couple for whom Bach wrote his wedding cantata Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten? We shall probably never know, but what is certain is that they were the beneficiaries of the most sublime wedding present yet known to mankind. Here are performances by Carolyn Sampson, Andreas Wolf and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra to treasure for a lifetime. Weichet nur is scored for soprano solo with a single oboe, strings and continuo, and almost certainly belongs to Bach’s Weimar years. The unidentified librettist provided the composer with a pastoral poem in a springtime Arcadian landscape, and he responded with music of the purest gold. Take, for instance, the poetically-inspired opening aria where initially Bach’s sighing oboe and orchestral surging arpeggios dispel winter’s shadows. They then yield to a livelier middle section welcoming Flora with her flowers and good cheer. Hardly less beguiling are the four remaining arias and especially the irresistible Gavotte which brings these springtime revelries to a close. Sampson conveys a beguiling youthful innocence enlivening Bach’s vernal masterpiece with affective ornaments, lightly articulated declamation and a carefully controlled vibrato. Tempos are justly chosen and the appropriately resonant importance given to the basso continuo provides icing on this most delicious of cakes.

The other solo soprano cantata here is of a very different character. Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut is also a Weimar composition whose text is concerned with repentance. Similarly though not identically scored to BWV 202, it likewise caters generously for solo oboe. Its opening aria with oboe obbligato is a poignant supplication of fervent intensity where Sampson brings tenderness and expressive depth to the music. The broad sweeping gestures of the second aria call Handel to mind while a centrally placed chorale with obbligato viola – rare for Bach – is of consummate beauty.

In the third Weimar cantata, Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn, Sampson is joined by Andreas Wolf and an instrumental group featuring recorder, oboe, viola d’amore, viola da gamba and continuo. In this delicately coloured music where French and Italian manners are subtly blended, each instrument participates as a soloist somewhat in the manner of an Italian chamber concerto. The music’s intimacy is sustained by both singers with sympathetic support here and throughout by the excellent Freiburg Baroque Orchestra. This is an outstanding release in which Katharina Arfken’s generously ornamented oboe playing deserves praise. The recorded sound is ideally spacious and transparent.

Nicholas Anderson

Listen to an excerpt from this recording here.

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