JS Bach: Cantatas, BWV 111, 123, 124, 125

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WORKS: Cantatas, BWV 111, 123, 124, 125
PERFORMER: Yukari Nonoshita (soprano), Robin Blaze (countertenor), Andreas Weller (tenor), Peter Kooij (bass); Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
These four cantatas belong to Bach’s second annual cycle, written in his second year at Leipzig. His workload was phenomenal – Kantor of four churches, city Director of Music, and writing around 60 cantatas a year. Yet his musical imagination seems boundless, his technical mastery uncompromised. He based this cycle on hymn texts and melodies, immediately recognisable by his Leipzig congregation. Despite these constraints, the variety is astonishing: instruments repeat hypnotically the opening phrase of the Epiphany chorale ‘Liebster Immanuel’ throughout the first chorus of BWV123. In complete contrast, BWV111 begins with a spirited instrumental concerto – two oboes, strings and continuo – on which the choir superimposes the musically unrelated chorale. Suzuki adopts a cracking pace here, the acoustic of the Japanese Kobe Shoin Chapel gloriously enriching choral sound, warmer though less taut than Gardiner in a Milanese church (Archiv). Elsewhere, though, definition is not always so clear; in Herreweghe’s 1998 recording of the tenor/bass duet of BWV125 ‘Ein unbegreiflich Licht’ with two violins and continuo, details are more immediate though the recording


is not audibly closer.

Suzuki’s solo team is excellent. Yukari Nonoshita and Robin Blaze dance through a delightfully jolly passepied duet in BWV124; Andreas Weller is outstanding in ‘Auch die harte Kreuzesreise’ (BWV123), his ‘long journey of the Cross’ accompanied by an exquisite instrumental trio, oboes d’amore and continuo – timeless music most sensitively performed. Perhaps Peter Kooij has the least rewarding arias to sing, but he achieves near-pinpoint accuracy in the angular lines of ‘Entsetze dich’, BWV111.


An excellent chapter in Suzuki’s long-term cantata series. George Pratt