JS Bach: Cantatas

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LABELS: Accent
ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach: Cantatas
WORKS: Cantatas, Vol 17: ‘Argre dich, o Seele, nicht’, BWV 186; ‘Tue Rechnung! Donnerwort’, BWV 168; ‘Ein Herz, das seinen Jesum lebend weiss’, BWV 134; ‘Widerstehe doch der Sunde’, BWV 54
PERFORMER: Siri Thornhill, Elisabeth Hermans, Yeree Suh (sopranos), Petra Noskalova (alto), Christoph Genz (tenor), Jan van der Crabben (bass)


Sigiswald Kuijken is assembling his Liturgical Year of Bach cantatas not in chronological order but creating volumes with varied programmes. Each disc has an outstanding gem or two – some delightful and memorable movements. In BWV 134, a self-borrowing from a secular ode for Bach’s Cöthen employer, the tenor calls imperiously on the faithful to rise up – ‘Auf, auf’ – and ‘sing well-loved hymns’. Christoph Genz enters splendidly into its boisterous spirit and energy.

BWV 186, from 1723, also began life early, arranged from a Weimar cantata written seven years earlier. The opening chorus is captivating, the orchestral bass part an unending stream of agitated quavers from start to finish, the accompaniment coloured by three oboes and bassoon. Kuijken takes this strangely fast, leaving singers to scramble through some of the faster musical figures.

The recording dates vary from 2005 to 2012, and were made in three different venues. The varying acoustics take the listener momentarily by surprise, though they’re well recorded. In BWV 54, for the alto solo, Petra Noskaiová’s countertenorish quality is warmed further by the generous resonance of a Belgian church.

Kuijken’s continuing choice of one-to-a-part voices leaves some balance issues unresolved; instruments overwhelm the ‘choir’ in the opening of BWV 186 for instance. But restricting the string bass to cello-pitched ‘basses de violon’ (and in BWV 134 to violoncello da spalla, played on the arm) lends an attractive lightness to textures, characterising this rewarding project.


George Pratt