JS Bach • Hoffmann

COMPOSERS: JS Bach Hoffmann
LABELS: Decca
ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach
WORKS: Ich habe genug, BWV 82; Gott soll allein mein Herze haben, BWV 169; Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich, BWV 150; Bekennen will ich seinen Namen, BWV 200; Komm, du süsse Todesstunde, BWV 161; Schlage doch, gewünschte Stunde, BWV 53
PERFORMER: Andreas Scholl (countertenor); Basel Chamber Orchestra/Julia Schröder
CATALOGUE NO: Decca 478 2733

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Andreas Scholl’s highly distinctive voice, with its clarity, poise and quiet control, makes an ideal vehicle for reflective Bach. The gentle rocking of ‘Schlummert ein’ (from BWV 82) would coax the most anxious ‘weary eyes [to] sleep’ in the ‘Sweet peace, silent repose’ of death. The first aria, too, is striking, the slow, simple voice-part wrapped in a florid oboe obbligato. In the final, joyful anticipation of death, Scholl’s lively facility is exhilarating.

The other complete cantata, Gott soll allein mein Herze haben BWV 169, features organ solo, the first movement effectively an instrumental concerto. It’s admirably played, especially in the second aria.

The rest of the disc is a collation of single movements, presumably selected to recall the opening funereal theme. The early Sinfonia to Cantata No. 150 introduces Bekennen will ich seinen Namen, BWV 200, an attractive lone piece for string trio with the voice added to the texture.

Scholl is a match for any of numerous singers – it’s an obvious countertenor favourite. A single recitative from Cantata No. 161, bidding the world ‘Goodnight’, is highly dramatic, breaking into arioso with a symbolic recorder ‘bell’ ringing out above voice and plucked strings – a remarkable colour. Schlage doch, gewünschte Stunde, BWV53, now thought to be by Georg Melchior Hoffmann, is a starkly scored aria, possibly for the funeral of a child. It’s for voice, strings, and two bells which recall the tolling which heralded a Lutheran funeral. They’re barely audible here – an opportunity lost. Otherwise, recording balance is excellent in this attractive disc.

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George Pratt