J S Bach: Cantatas, Vol. 37: BWV 35, 169, 170, 200

COMPOSERS: J S Bach
LABELS: BIS SACD
ALBUM TITLE: J S Bach
WORKS: Cantatas, Vol. 37: BWV 35, 169, 170, 200
PERFORMER: Robin Blaze (alto); Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
CATALOGUE NO: BIS SACD-1621 (hybrid CD/SACD)
A handful of Bach’s cantatas for solo voice have long been favourites, but here is mostly less familiar fare. Of the present clutch, only Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust (BWV 170) is well known; performances of the remaining three – BWV 200 comprises only of a single aria, presumably once part of a longer work – are confined mainly to commercial recording.Robin Blaze has become a regular member of Masaaki Suzuki’s Bach cantata team and his contributions strengthen as the series progresses. He responds with tenderly articulated phrasing to the lyrical opening aria of Vergnügte Ruh and, as we have come to expect from these musicians, the instrumental partnership is intuitively complementary and well served by the spacious SACD acoustic. This expressive délicatesse, together with Blaze’s clear and restrained melodic line, appeals to my senses; but as to the voice itself I admit I am drawn more to Alfred Deller’s distinctive sound (alas his recording of BWV 170, made 55 years ago, is currently unavailable). Blaze’s main rival is Paul Esswood who sings all but BWV 200 in the Nikolaus Harnoncourt-Gustav Leonhardt complete edition (Teldec?Warner). His performances, too are gently inflected, but contain a wider expressive vocabulary than Blaze; the instrumental support, though is not always as secure as that of Bach Collegium Japan who play a notably important part in BWV 35 and 169 which contain between them three fully fledged concerto movements with organ obbligato. For readers who prefer a female voice Julia Hamari (Hänssler), Monica Groop (Warner) and Marianne Beate Kielland (Naxos) offer sound alternatives.

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