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Bach: Cantatas BWV 1, 82, 147 - Montréal Baroque

Bach: Cantatas BWV 1, 82, 147 - Montréal Baroque

ATMA Classique  SACD22402

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Vocal


Bach: Cantatas BWV 1, 82, 147

Charles Daniels (tenor)
Stephan MacLeod (bass)
Monika Mauch (soprano)
Matthew White (countertenor)
Montréal Baroque
Eric Milnes (organ, conductor)

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Review by John Broggio - January 5, 2007

This is the third volume in ATMA's complete Bach Cantata cycle and focuses on those composed "for Mary" in the following order:
Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben - BWV 147
Ich habe genug - BWV 82
Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern - BWV 1

Directed from the organ/harpsichord by Eric Milnes, this is another disc from Montréal Baroque, whose disc Marais: Sémélé - Montréal Baroque, Wieland Kuijken I greatly enjoyed (& still do!). This cycle will inevitably be compared with the purposefully incomplete cycle under way on Accent from La Petite Bande under Wieland Kuijken. Sadly, to my ears the approach adopted by Milnes does not work as well as their (partial) competitors; this is despite the same set of performing principles being outlined in the notes (not as comprehensive as the Accent sets).

If we focus on BWV 82 and compare to that offered on Bach: Cantatas through the Liturgical Year, Vol. 3 - Kuijken, it is apparent that where Kuijken applies these principles with taste and sensitivity, Milnes takes every aspect to their extremes - especially the point about pauses. Where Kuijken would use the pause as a moderate expressive device, Milnes becomes almost Pinter-esque in the length adopted and this completely disrupts the line of the music (longer or otherwise). Nor is Stephan Macleod in quite the same league of voice as Jan Van der Grabben, though admittedly he is not helped by the noticeably slower tempi.

Beyond this particularly irritating feature, the singing is largely good if not quite in the same league as other cycles in progress on SACD and RBCD. The instrumental group used is substantially larger than on the Accent cycle and more "top heavy" in the string sections which makes the textures at once more concentrated yet lighter. As with the Accent cycle, Milnes is of the mind that the chorus should only be one voice per part and this helps keep the diction clear. The orchestral playing is good (as might be expected) and the singing is good but not perhaps first class.

The other cantatas benefit from not currently having direct competition in my SACD library and so such idiosyncrasies are less tiresome in the remaining works which appear largely freshly minted in loving performances. I think though, given the approach that was adopted in BWV 82 (perhaps Milnes felt because this is very famous, more "interpretation" was needed?) that a solution for Bach fans would be to collect the Accent series and supplement their favourite works from this complete cycle as and when they are issued.

The sound, recorded in the same venue as the Marais disc shares the same pleasing properties; full sound but with plenty of detail.

Copyright © 2007 John Broggio and HRAudio.net

Performance:

Sonics (Multichannel):

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