Johann Ludwig Bach: Trauermusik

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Johann Ludwig Bach
LABELS: Capriccio
WORKS: Trauermusik
PERFORMER: Soloists; Rheinische Kantorei, Das Kleine Konzert/Hermann Max
CATALOGUE NO: 10 814
JL Bach’s Funeral Music for the Duke of Sachsen-Meiningen is a delightful discovery. JS Bach clearly regarded his distant cousin’s music highly, performing 18 of his cantatas in Leipzig during a single year. The Funeral Music, setting in part the Duke’s own text, is magnificent in scoring – for two choirs, soloists and large orchestra including trumpets and drums – and in scale. Like a Baroque Dream of Gerontius, the soul begins fettered in human bonds on earth, then ascends to the heavenly gates, with Part 3 a brilliant celebration of celestial joy. Bach’s descriptions are graphic – ‘bonds’ create staggering dissonances, resolved to momentary silence when ‘torn asunder’. Melodic phrases are disarmingly simple, like early Handel at his best.

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The performance is superb. Soloists are matched by exemplary instrumentalists in Bach’s frequent echo/dialogue structure. The fresh, youthful choir injects hypnotic Hallelujas into five minutes of sheer exultation to end Part 1.

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The double-choir Motets are less inspired. Echoes and imitations make a little music go a long way, but some is hauntingly memorable. Microphones are opened rather audibly between the contrasting forces, though the sound spectrum is admirably spacious. George Pratt