COMPOSERS: JS Bach
ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach
WORKS: Cantatas: Vol. 14: Gelobet, seist Du, Jesu Christ, BWV 91; Selig ist der Mann, der Anfechtung erduldet, BWV 57; Süsser Trost, mein Jesus kömmt, BWV 151; Das neugeborne Kindelein, BWV 122
PERFORMER: Gerlinde Sämann (soprano), Petra Noskaiová (alto), Christoph Genz (tenor), Jan van der Crabben (bass); La Petite Bande/Sigiswald Kuijken
CATALOGUE NO: ACC 25314
After the rigours of their Christmas-day schedule, Bach gave his choir a break for a few days. Of the cantatas for these days, BWV 57 is a dialogue between Jesus (bass) and the Soul (soprano), while BWV 151 is mainly for soloists, though both have final chorales. In both, Sigiswald Kuijken is very well-served by his singers. Jan van der Crabben is magnificent in the final aria of BWV 57. In the opening aria, too, he creates a beautifully fluid line among the concitato repeated notes that describe the defeat of the forces of evil. It is interrupted by strikingly long notes, illustrating patience and endurance. (For the bass line, Kuijken’s decision not to include the violone an octave below seems questionable, as harmonies are uncharacteristically inverted.)
Gerlinde Sämann is truly exceptional, exquisitely fresh and uncomplicated – every soprano aria throughout the disc held me enthralled. She is well matched by Petra Noskaiová’s alto in the extraordinarily imaginative duet of BWV 91. Here, the violins play an obsessive dotted figure while voices entwine lyrically above a ceaseless walking bass – though Kuijken’s slow tempo turns its four-in-a-bar stride into a laboured eight-beat amble.
Choruses fare less well. Four solo voices, very closely recorded, have a crystalline edge that sounds like the brightness of (mainly one-to-a-part) instruments. As a result, the sound becomes homogenised. Individual details are concealed, too, by unrelentingly loud chords. The added dimension of SACD helps a little, but I longed to step back from the conductor’s rostrum into the nave. A pity, when the solo numbers are such rare delights.