JS Bach: Cantata BWV 210 (Wedding Cantata); Cantata BWV 211 (Coffee Cantata)

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WORKS: Cantata BWV 210 (Wedding Cantata); Cantata BWV 211 (Coffee Cantata)
PERFORMER: Carolyn Sampson (soprano), Makoto Sakurada (tenor), Stephan Schreckenberger (bass); Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
While recordings of Bach’s Coffee Cantata abound, the same cannot be said for his spaciously proportioned Wedding Cantata, ‘O holder Tag’. Scored for soprano with flute, oboe d’amore and strings, this last-mentioned piece is unquestionably one of the most vocally challenging of all Bach’s solo voice cantatas, requiring stamina and virtuosity over and above all Bach’s other usual demands. Carolyn Sampson has these challenges well within her grasp and no one is likely to be disappointed by her restrained and delicately poised singing. Sometimes I wished that she would give just a little bit more of herself, but better by far an excess of restraint than the opposite. Lisa Larsson, with Ton Koopman (Erato), offers a brighter, more pert account of the cantata’s first aria, and a markedly brisker one though the text invites equally both her approach and Sampson’s more languid one. But Larsson’s speedy progress through the second aria contradicts the spirit of the text, and that goes for all the rival versions that I know save that of Emma Kirkby (Decca). Sampson and Suzuki convey its nature more faithfully and more lyrically. Comparably successful are the fourth aria, a deliciously pervasive polonaise, and the spirited finale, though throughout the cantata elegance of phrase and transparency of texture take precedence over nuptial high spirits. The Coffee Cantata is a delight from start to finish. Sampson is an almost perfect Liesgen, the wilful, headstrong but affectionate daughter of dyspeptic though ultimately indulgent father, Schlendrian. As in the other work, the emphasis in Suzuki’s performance is on refinement of detail rather than animated dialogue. But the little domestic contretemps comes over charmingly and with just enough theatre to hold our attention. Stephen Schreckenberger makes clearer tonal sense of his aria ‘Mädchen, die von harten Sinnen’ than any other bass I know and Sampson’s sublime ‘Heute noch’ is lightly articulated and wholly enchanting. Nicholas Anderson