J S Bach: Cantatas: Wo soll ich fliehen hin, BWV 5; Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, BWV 80; Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit, BWV 115

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COMPOSERS: J S Bach
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: Bach Cantatas
WORKS: Cantatas: Wo soll ich fliehen hin, BWV 5; Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, BWV 80; Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit, BWV 115
PERFORMER: Susanne Rydén (soprano), Pascal Bertin (countertenor), Gerd Türk (tenor), Peter Kooij (bass); Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
CATALOGUE NO: BIS CD-1421
Two Leipzig cantatas belonging to the 1720s are joined by the sturdy Reformation Festival cantata Ein feste Burg, whose roots go further back to Bach’s Weimar years. The 12-voice choir of Bach Collegium Japan achieves greater textural lucidity in the majestic opening chorus – a breathtaking tour-de-force incorporating Luther’s famous hymn – than any rival performance that I can think of. Likewise, the almost centrally placed movement in which the chorale speaks more openly on its own terms is declaimed with authority and rhythmic élan. But the contemplative focal point of the piece is the alto-tenor duet with oboe da caccia, sensitively sung by Pascal Bertin and Gerd Türk. Türk also brings lyricism to his aria in ‘Wo soll ich fliehen hin’ (BWV 5). In this gently flowing movement he is partnered by a viola which makes one of its very rare obbligato appearances in the cantatas. Insecurities in the trumpet playing mar the declamatory bass aria (alas, Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s more measured performance with Max van Egmond is currently only available as part of a pricey 6-CD set).

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The remaining cantata, BWV 115, is from start to finish an inspired and masterly creation. Following a translucently-textured choral fantasia come two arias of sublime lyricism. Indeed, the second of them, marked Molto adagio, seems at times to break through conventional boundaries of late-Baroque musical expression. Susanne Rydén accompanied by

a flute and violoncello piccolo is all that could be wished for in

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this contrapuntal jewel. Nicholas Anderson