Fasch: Cantatas; Overture in D minor; Concerto in B flat

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Fasch
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Cantatas; Overture in D minor; Concerto in B flat
PERFORMER: Klaus Mertens (baritone), Deborah York (soprano); Accademia Daniel/Shalev Ad-El
CATALOGUE NO: 999 674-2
Fasch wrote an astonishing 12 annual cantata cycles, four times as many as Bach, his contemporary. Time has dealt hard with them; only a scattered few individual cantatas remain, none listed in the current CD catalogue. They are most engaging: elegant, short-breathed motifs expressing breathless joy; elsewhere, purposefully walking harmony of quite Bachian logic. In a Pentecost cantata, Mertens negotiates fast figurations with almost instrumental clarity, complementing obbligato oboe with velvet-toned chalumeau, precursor of the clarinet, replacing second oboe – an inspired colouring. The final aria is a masterpiece, the Christian soul accepting death, rocked in the gentle rhythm of a siciliano.

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The D minor Overture – a full-scale suite: gestural French overture, two expansive airs and three pairs of sparkling galant dances – is played by this one-to-a-part ensemble with delightful spirit. The Concerto is strangely coloured with chalumeau, two oboes and strings.

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Recorded sound is superb in the cantatas, less so in the orchestral pieces. The Overture’s solo violin has an astringent edge and in the concerto, the only piece currently available elsewhere, I prefer Colin Lawson’s darkly seductive chalumeau tone (Archiv). But whether or not you tweak a tone-control, this reveals some unmissable repertoire, performed with verve and high polish. George Pratt