JS Bach: Cantatas, Vol. 35: BWV 74, 87, 128 & 176

COMPOSERS: JS Bach
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach
WORKS: Cantatas, Vol. 35: BWV 74, 87, 128 & 176
PERFORMER: Yukari Nonoshita (soprano), Robin Blaze (countertenor), Makoto Sakurada (tenor), Peter Kooij (bass); Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
CATALOGUE NO: SACD-1571 (hybrid CD/SACD)
Bach wrote, copied, rehearsed and performed these four remarkably varied cantatas within a single month, May 1725. BWV128, opening with full choir, strings, oboes and horns, is treated to superbly polished playing. Indeed the stratospheric horn parts sound less challenging than they actually are – Koopman’s less finely-honed players (Challenge Classics) create a greater sense of excitement, of risk-taking. Nothing, though, matches Suzuki’s fluent trumpeter, floating through nine bars of unbroken coloratura in the bass aria ‘Auf, auf, mit hellem Schall’. In total contrast is the final alto/tenor duet, a delicious siciliano with oboe d’amore adding an equal third ‘voice’. Robin Blaze sang this for John Eliot Gardiner in 1999 (Archiv) and his voice is noticeably more even nowadays.

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Suzuki takes the opening of BWV176 at a strangely slow and deliberate tempo, the chorus singing with artificially pointed articulation. I prefer Koopman’s sense of line and purpose, faster if less introspective. Both recordings capture the dancing spirit of the soprano gavotte-aria, though Johannette Zomer (with Koopman) is the warmer soloist.

The special colour of BWV 87 is of oboes, three embedded in the strings accompanying the first bass aria and two, tenor oboes da caccia, with countertenor solo in a poignant plea for forgiveness – Blaze at his tender best and instruments phrasing with great artistry.

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This splendid disc ends with the full works in BWV74, trumpets and drums in a blaze of surround-sound Whitsuntide exuberance and some astonishingly vivid description of rattling hellish fetters and ironic laughter – Suzuki matching Bach in irrepressible energy. George Pratt