J. S. Bach: Early Cantatas Vol. 1

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LABELS: Chandos Chaccone
ALBUM TITLE: Bach Cantatas
WORKS: Early Cantatas Vol. 1
PERFORMER: Emma Kirkby, Michael Chance, Charles Daniels, Peter Harvey, Purcell Quartet
This is the first volume in a projected series by the Purcell Quartet, with vocalists and an expanded instrumental group. Bach’s earliest cantatas were written in Mühlhausen (1707-8), but only six are known from this period of which four are included here. The single-voice-per-strand approach is preferred here, which suits the predominantly motet style of the choral writing as well as assisting in passages of colourful word-painting. These are rhythmically supple performances with generally effective tempos and which demonstrate an awareness of the antecedent styles of Buxtehude and others. But, while the instrumental playing seems cohesive and homogeneous for the most part, the vocal quartet is less consistent in its ability to blend comfortably. In this respect Konrad Junghänel’s Cantus Cölln, which has three of the four cantatas in common (BWV 4, 106, 196), comes across more convincingly. And in the remaining cantata,


BWV 131, countertenor Daniel Taylor’s Theatre of Early Music achieves a deeper expressive intensity than the present ensemble manages. Even so, there are many rewarding features in these new performances, by no means least of which is the careful consideration given to the words whose contrasting blend of biblical text with free poetry often highlights the imagery. Just occasionally, as in the closing Alla breve section of Versus I of BWV 4, the perilously brisk tempo seems ill judged, but for the most part readers will find much to enjoy in these thoughtful performances. Nicholas Anderson