Works by JS Bach, JF Fasch, Handel & Telemann

Christoph Prégardien; Vox Orchestra/Lorenzo Ghirlanda (Deutches Harmonia Mundi)

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0
CD_19075834122_Bach_cmyk

JS Bach • Telemann
JS Bach: Cantata, BWV 56; JF Fasch: Overture in G minor, FWVK:g2; Handel: Concerto grosso in A minor, Op. 6 No. 4, HWV322 – Larghetto affetuoso; Telemann: Was gibst du den, o meine Seele; Jesus liegt in letzten Zuegen; Overture in D minor
Christoph Prégardien (baritone); Vox Orchestra/Lorenzo Ghirlanda
Deutches Harmonia Mundi 19075834122 63:05 mins

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Recorded live in a Swiss church last year, this CD opens with a slightly humdrum overture by Bach’s contemporary Johann Friedrich Fasch, enlivened considerably by Lorenzo Ghirlanda’s dance-inspired approach. The substance of the recording is two cantatas by Telemann, Bach’s much-loved cantata Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen, plus two further orchestral movements by Telemann and Handel. The Vox Orchestra, a recently formed international group of Baroque musicians, delivers with terrific energy. The recorded sound is appropriately otherworldly, but the plaintive, honking woodwinds occasionally overwhelm the slightly whiny vibrato-free upper strings, and the bass needed more warmth. Flaws in intonation are hard to overlook. But the solo playing is characterful and visceral, and inner lines in the texture emerge with clarity.

The Telemann cantatas have moments of great beauty, such as the aria ‘Mein Liebster Heiland’: spacious, supported by a barely-there accompaniment which beautifully frames Christoph Prégardien’s dignified rendition. However, the opening theme of the Bach cantata, presented as five separate notes, suggested a resigned ‘I-will-carry-the-cross’, emphatic rather than empathetic. Prégardien, who has enjoyed a long career as a lyric tenor, brings his considerable intelligence and poise to this music, together with immaculately crisp enunciation (although there is a translation if you want it). He sometimes sounds unconvinced by the orchestra’s motoric chugging, and weaves his lines separately to great effect. I’m not completely persuaded by this baritone incarnation; the lower range makes his normally elegant delivery sound a touch strained.

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Natasha Loges