JS Bach: Cantatas, Vol. 50: BWV 49, 145, 149 & 174

WORKS: Cantatas, Vol. 50: BWV 49, 145, 149 & 174
PERFORMER: Hana Blaz˘íková (soprano), Robin Blaze (countertenor), Gerd Türk (tenor) & Peter Kooij (bass); Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki


Of the 60 or so cantatas Bach must have produced for the 1728-29 church year, only nine survive. To hear the three presented in Vol. 50 of Masaaki Suzuki’s ongoing cantata odyssey, alongside Cantata BWV 49 from 1726, is to be reminded of the incalculable bounty lost.

Concise yet elaborately worked, BWV 145, 149 & 174 find Bach frequently casting his eye to pre-existing material, then gilding an already-exquisite lily. The Whit Monday Cantata BWV 174 opens with a joyous expansion of the first movement of Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, weaving horns, oboes and extra strings into an intricate tapestry.

Those who know the E major Harpsichord Concerto – itself thought to be based on another concerto, now lost – will instantly recognise the Sinfonia launching BWV 49. It pursues the delicately-charged eroticism of a text largely derived from the Song of Songs, featuring oboe d’amore and piccolo cello as well as an energising organ obbligato – the final duet-cum-chorale is irresistible, with its alluring buoyancy heightened by Suzuki’s natural, unforced direction.

That same beguiling ‘lightness of being’ informs the opening duet of Cantata BWV 145 where Bach’s arresting harmonic punctuation marks are tellingly yet unobtrusively underscored. As ever, honours must be shared equally between the vocal soloists and the eloquent obbligato players of Bach Collegium Japan; but countertenor Robin Blaze is on particularly fine form, effortlessly entwined with Gerd Türk above a fruity bassoon in BWV 149, and stealing hearts alongside two oboes in BWV 174. Suzuki never courts the visceral edge of John Eliot Gardiner, but he has a flawless integrity, the glorious SACD sound adding a halo of its own.


Paul Riley