JS Bach: Cantatas, Vol. 47

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COMPOSERS: JS Bach
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Cantatas, Vol. 47: BWV 27, 36 & 47
PERFORMER: Hana Blazíková (soprano), Robin Blaze (countertenor), Satoshi Mizukoshi (tenor), Peter Kooij (bass); Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
CATALOGUE NO: BIS SACD-1861

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Interviewed by BBC Music Magazine (December 2010) Masaaki Suzuki revealed that there was no professional choir in Japan until he founded the Bach Collegium. He’s inspired fine period-instrument players too, while the Kobe Shoin Women’s University Chapel, equipped with a French Baroque-style organ, was designed with music in mind.

Singlehandedly founding a Japanese tradition is a huge challenge, but it brings opportunities, not least to establish a distinctive ‘voice’. Suzuki’s was initially rather restrained and reverential. No longer. He’s a touch faster than Philippe Herreweghe in the joyful opening chorus of BWV36, and the generous acoustic of the Chapel, reverberating for nearly four seconds, doesn’t dull the crisp articulation. Of his soloists, Satoshi Mizukoshi’s light, fresh tenor is supported by striking breath-control in his first aria. Hana Blažíková’s tone becomes a touch hard in her upper register.

Otherwise she’s breathtaking – her final aria with violin obbligato is entrancing. A high spot comes in BWV36, ‘Willkommen…’, ‘Welcome, precious treasure’, opening with a mischievously confusing rhythm  before Peter Kooij dances off in a light-footed allemande. Blaze is totally at ease duetting with oboe da caccia in BWV27. Bach’s choice of obbligato keyboard here is unclear: Suzuki supplies both alternatives – harpsichord, swamped by its contrapuntal partners, and organ, much better balanced.

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A similar issue is rather less well solved in the final aria of BWV47 – oboe, bass soloist and continuo mask a rather reticent violin. But, in all, another superb contribution to Suzuki’s complete-cantata project. George Pratt