Bach: Cantatas, BWV 26, 62, 116 & 139

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: Bach Cantatas
WORKS: Cantatas, BWV 26, 62, 116 & 139
PERFORMER: Yukari Nonoshita (soprano), Robin Blaze (countertenor), Makoto Sakurada (tenor), Peter Kooij (bass); Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
CATALOGUE NO: SACD 1451
Volume 28 of Bach Collegium Japan’s cantata series continues the sequence of chorale-based works which Bach produced at Leipzig for the 1724-25 church year. The sheer musical energy with which Bach enlivened these masterpieces week by week is breathtaking, especially if we take into account that for this great second Leipzig cycle he introduced hardly any pre-existing material. Compared to some competing versions, Suzuki’s approach seems to take greater account of the theological context in which the music is set, resulting in a fundamental vitality in the illumination of textual symbols and images. Sometimes, as was the case with some of Karl Richter’s later recordings, a profound knowledge of Lutheran theology weighs heavily on the dance rhythms with which the cantatas are so generously endowed. Suzuki, like John Eliot Gardiner, for example, is alert to this danger, seldom allowing the music to sag under too heavy a burden of learning.

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The latest volume contains few disappointments. Tempos are well-judged, the 12-voice choir effective and the instrumental playing well nigh impeccable. Only some of the solo vocal contributions struck my ears as something of a disappointment. Makoto Sakurada, who is splendid in his virtuoso aria in BWV 26, yields a monochrome account of his aria in BWV 62. Admittedly, the dance-like, radiant opening chorus is a hard act to follow but the text requires more joyful declamation than is allowed here. Peter Kooij also sounds blander on occasion than in previous issues, though his fine aria in BWV 139 comes over well. These considerations apart, the disc is a strong addition to an impressive enterprise. Nicholas Anderson