JS Bach: Cantatas Vol. 48

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

WORKS: Cantatas Vol. 48: O ewiges Feuer, O Ursprung der Liebe, BWV 34; Sei Lob und ehr dem höchsten Gut, BWV 117; Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan, BWV 98; Gott, Man lobet Dich in der Stille, BWV 120
PERFORMER: Hana Blazˇiková (soprano), Robin Blaze (countertenor), Satoshi Mizukoshi (tenor), Peter Kooij (bass); Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki


Masaaki Suzuki’s modest forces have become totally at one with the acoustic of the Kobe University Chapel, venue for all his recordings. I listened to an early disc in the complete cantata series and find that in this 48th volume there’s audibly more clarity and springiness in the four-to-a-part voices, which is also striking testimony to fine SACD engineering as well as the performers: this clarity and springiness is a vital component of the ‘dancing flames’ of ‘eternal fire’, portrayed in the continuous running, leaping semiquavers which open BWV 34. (The timpanist, too, deserves praise for subtly balancing exuberance with discretion.) Two further surprises are Robin Blaze’s pastoral aria, which is coloured by flutes and muted violins and borrowed from a wedding cantata for a pastor, a ‘Shepherd of Souls’, and the mighty choral interjection ‘Peace over Israel’ before the final chorus’s paean of thanksgiving.

Suzuki gently understates the lightly scored opening chorus of ‘Was Gott tut’, BWV 98. Hana Bla‑íková is endearingly unmannered in her duet aria with oboe, and Peter Kooij sings some splendidly articulated passagework in his final aria. Strangely there’s no closing chorale.
Stranger still is the opening of BWV 120, a tight-rope of alto demi-semi-quavers on which Blaze balances with remarkable security and poise – quite the best I’ve heard on disc. This municipal cantata for Leipzig council elections relies heavily on borrowings – soprano is added to a discarded movement originally for violin and harpsichord, and we hear the burst of triumph which Bach later cut  when he reworked this first chorus as ‘et expecto’ in the B minor Mass. This is without question an outstanding contribution to Suzuki’s complete cantata project. George Pratt