JS Bach: Secular Cantatas, Vol. 3

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ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach: Secular Cantatas, Vol. 3
WORKS: Secular Cantatas, Vol. 3: Durchlauchtster Leopold, BWV 173a; Weichet nur, betrübe Schatten, BWV 202 (Wedding Cantata); Schwingt freudig euch empor, BWV 36c; Wedding Quodlibet, BWV 524
PERFORMER: Joanne Lunn (soprano), Hiroya Aoki (countertenor), Makoto Sakurada (tenor), Roderick Williams (baritone); Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki


Bach’s annual salary at Mülhausen included 30 pails of tax-free beer, a jar of which you can clearly imagine him holding as he entertained guests at a wedding, with the absurd Quodlibet which ends this disc. The apparently nonsensical words include some cutting jibes, teasing someone who tried to sail off in a baker’s trough, for instance. Masaaki Suzuki and his singers are at ease with this carefree Bach, introducing the Quodlibet with background babble, and singing with exaggerated nasal accents.

The other three cantatas here are also secular, but with no hint of jest. Indeed, Bach had no qualms about converting BWV173a, including a curious three-section minuet, into a sacred cantata some years later – a thoroughly Lutheran attitude whereby the secular may be sanctified, but the sacred never desecrated. Joanne Lunn has a rather hard edge in the unusual opening recitative, and elsewhere a tight staccato leaves no time for tone to develop. She is, though, much more at ease in the Wedding Cantata BWV202, for soprano soloist throughout, and her lyrical, sustained aria in BWV36c is glorious. Two further high points in BWV36c are a rustic bass dance-aria and the admirable oboes d’amore and strings of the opening choral movement.

After the Chapel acoustic of the sacred cantatas, Suzuki opts here for the drier ambience of a concert hall. Recording balance is excellent, helped by surround-sound.


George Pratt