COMPOSERS: JS Bach
WORKS: Cantatas, Vol. 44: BWV 43, 88 & 146
PERFORMER: Rachel Nicholls (soprano), Robin Blaze (countertenor), Gerd Türk (tenor), Peter Kooij (bass); Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
CATALOGUE NO: BIS SACD-1791 (hybrid CD/SACD)
Among the several on-going or completed Bach cantata series, Masaaki Suzuki’s is among the more contemplative. Bathed in the warm acoustic of the Kobe Shoin Women’s University Chapel, with the added spatial dimensions of surround-sound, his approach is unmatched in moments such as the plaintive soprano aria in BWV146. Its text, of ‘tears sown with anxious heart’, is accompanied by the haunting mix of flute and two oboes d’amore.
Rachel Nicholls sings the aria with sublime simplicity – I’d buy the disc for this alone. The whole cantata is a curiosity, surviving only in posthumous copies. Two movements are built on the D minor harpsichord concerto, the first transferring the solo part to organ (a particularly fine instrument here), the second laying the chorus like a transparency over the bleak unisons of the concerto’s slow movement.
The opening aria of BWV88 evokes successively the sea, bass singer Peter Kooij creating impressively effortless strands of long-breathed melody, and then the hunt, characterised by impeccably accurate if slightly tame horns. Best is the soprano-alto duet in which Bach interweaves voices, obbligato instruments and bass in wonderfully fluent counterpoint.
After three sabbatical months which Bach granted himself in 1726 he returned to composition with BWV43, celebrating the Ascension with trumpets and drums in the opening chorus and a brilliant solo trumpet with bass. Here Suzuki’s reserve doesn’t match the raw exhilaration – and tempos – of Gardiner in 1993. George Pratt