JS Bach: Cantatas Vol. 12

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LABELS: Accent
WORKS: Cantatas, Vol. 12: BWV 27, 47, 96, 138
PERFORMER: Gerlinde Sämann (soprano), Petra Noskaiová (contralto), Christoph Genz (tenor), Jan van der Crabben (bass); La Petite Bande/Sigiswald Kuijken
CATALOGUE NO: ACC 25312 (hybrid CD/SACD)

Sigiswald Kuijken’s decision to construct one year’s worth of cantatas rather than recording them all pays off here. His cherry-picking includes BWV 47, rather neglected on disc bar the ‘complete cantata’ collections. Its opening movement – two oboes, strings and (one-to-a-part) voices – is a heavenly 228 bars long and sounds exquisite, particularly in Kuijken’s chamber-music proportions. It’s lightened still further by the absence of weighty 16′ double-bass, though elsewhere, uncharacteristic inverted harmonies raise questions about such scoring. The choral blend of the four voices is excellent, though it may explain them being a little reticent as soloists at times: Petra Noskaiová, a charmingly clean almost countertenorish contralto, fades in her lower register amidst obbligato organ, oboe da caccia and strings at the opening of BWV 27; bass Jan van der Crabben is similarly overshadowed by some of the lively string figuration in the same Cantata’s final aria.
The structure of BWV 138’s opening is fascinating. Voices and instruments share exactly the same music (a clear example of Bach expecting voices to be no less fluent than instruments, but with benefit of text), before being constantly interrupted by recitative. Another delight is the sopranino recorder scampering above the rocking quavers of oboes, strings and voices in BWV 96. In the following tenor aria, the flute tone is curiously uneven across one part of its compass, endowing it with a particularly plaintive quality.
This is some of the best of Bach, excellently recorded in surround-sound, but beware the liner – terribly confused, the Cantatas are differently ordered from the disc, and without a track listing to guide you. George Pratt