Du treuer Gott: Leipzig Cantatas, BWV 101, 103 & 115
Dorothee Mields (soprano), Damien Guillon (alto), Thomas Hobbs (tenor), Peter Kooij (bass); Collegium Vocale Gent/Philippe Herreweghe
Listening to the three cantatas on this disc, we are, as so often, almost overwhelmed by the diverse and colourful means by which Bach harnessed and deployed his compositional genius. The music is dramatic and at least to 21st-century ears sensual, often breaking the bounds of convention in its synthesis of styles from a variety of conflicting traditions and ideals.
The opening chorale fantasias of the three works could hardly be more strongly contrasted, ranging from the sombre, expressively intense lamentation of BWV 101, through the robust declamation of the stirring hymn melody of BWV 115, to the exhilarating ritornello of BWV 103 with its scintillating and athletic sopranino recorder. The music of these towering masterpieces offers a triumphant affirmation of Bach’s ability to meet the challenge of uniting symbols of faith with the newer values of The Enlightenment. Collegium Vocale Gent rise to the occasion splendidly, sounding responsive and sensitive to the thoughtful direction of Philippe Herreweghe. The 12-voice choral texture is ideal, achieving greater expressive warmth than some competing versions.
The solo voices, by and large, do justice to the recitatives and arias. Damien Guillon’s singing of the torpid, siciliana ‘sleep aria’ is perhaps especially affecting, though Dorothee Mields, usually such a strength in Baroque repertoire, has acquired a distracting habit of reaching up to the initial note of her phrases. It did little, though, to spoil my otherwise uninterrupted enjoyment of this latest offering from Herreweghe’s serendipitous series. Recorded sound is ideal and the booklet contains a short but helpful essay by Bach scholar Christoph Wolff.