JS Bach: Cantatas

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ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach: Cantatas
WORKS: Cantatas, Vol. 51
PERFORMER: Hana Blazikova (soprano), Damien Guillon (counter-tenor), Christoph Genz (tenor), Peter Kooij (bass); Bach Collegium/Masaaki Suzuki


Getting hitched in 18th-century Leipzig must have been quite something – provided your funds stretched to commissioning a celebratory cantata from the Thomaskirche’s resident genius. After a disc exploring Bach’s secular cantatas, Masaaki Suzuki returns to the sacred fold, and to four ‘pièces d’occasions’. The ‘occasion’ resulting in BWV 192, where Suzuki out-fizzes John Eliot Gardiner in the opening movement, remains something of a mystery. Two astonishingly elaborate and inventive wedding cantatas frame the disc. They might struggle to find something ‘blue’ but can rustle up ‘borrowed’ and ‘new’ with consummate aplomb: the opening of BWV 120a is immediately recognisable from the B Minor Mass (the ‘et resurrexit’), and the Part II Sinfonia reworks the E major Violin Partita’s Prelude as a scintillating organ concerto movement. For ‘something new’, BWV 195’s bass aria sounds like an up-to-the-minute refugee from the opera house rather than a product of the Bach cantata workshop – though bass Peter Kooij doesn’t quite nail the insouciant charm that Suzuki finds in the accompaniment. Written for a memorial service and shot through with the plangent sultriness of oboe d’amore and viola d’amore, BWV 157, meanwhile, contrives a ravishing foil to all the nuptial exuberance. Its tenor aria is elegantly turned by Christoph Genz, and completing the disc’s solo line-up are the silvery, bright-toned soprano of Hana Blazˇiková and Damien Guillon’s supple countertenor. Suzuki’s customary transparent springiness, sensitivity and almost feline gracefulness ensure a trousseau of sophisticated delights.


Paul Riley