Bach: Easter & Ascension Oratorios - Suzuki

Bach: Easter & Ascension Oratorios - Suzuki


Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Vocal

Johann Sebastian Bach:
Easter Oratorio BWV 249
Ascension Oratorio BWV 11

Yukari Nonoshita (soprano)
Patrick van Goethem (counter tenor)
Jan Kobow (tenor)
Chiyuki Urano (bass)
Bach Collegium Japan
Masaaki Suzuki (conductor)

Hard on the heels of Volume 29 in the Bach Cantata series and their recording of the Orchestral Suites comes this new disc from Bach Collegium Japan. Genre-wise the present two works balance between oratorios and cantatas.

Though their format is not far removed from that of the longer cantatas, some differences are obvious: for instance, in its earliest version the soloists in the Easter Oratorio were assigned roles (such as Mary Magdalene and Peter), while the Ascension Oratorio features an Evangelist, filling the same function as in the more monumental Passions. Both works - like the Christmas Oratorio - are, at least in part, so-called parodies: reworkings of secular occasional pieces as sacred compositions by adapting their texts. Such origins may to some extent explain the festive note of these two celebrations of the resurrection of Christ, and his ascension to heaven.

The opening instrumental movement of the Easter Oratorio, which uses the theme from 'Erschallet, ihr Lieder' of Cantata BWV 172, resounds with jubilant trumpets and timpani, and the Ascension Oratorio begins with a chorus in which choir and orchestra "praise God in His kingdoms" with the splendour worthy of a great prince.

Recent reviews have described Bach Collegium Japan's offerings as 'Bach to an unbelievable perfection' (the Suites) and 'musical beyond belief' (Volume 29), and here is more from the seemingly indefatigable Masaaki Suzuki. On the present disc, Cantata cycle veterans Yukari Nonoshita and Chiyuki Urano are joined by Jan Kobow, whose participation on Volume 22 (BIS-CD-1322) received much praise, and counter-tenor Patrick van Goethem, making his BIS début.

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PCM recording

Recorded in May 2004 at the Kobe Shoin Women’s University Chapel, Japan, 24/88.2

Recording producer: Marion Schwebel (Take5 Music Production)

Sound engineer: Jens Braun (Take5 Music Production)

Digital editing: Matthias Spitzbarth

Surround mix: Jens Braun (Take5 Music Production), Marion Schwebel

SACD authoring: Bastiaan Kuijt

Recording equipment: Neumann microphones; Studer 961 mixer; RME Octamic D microphone pre-amplifier and high-resolution A/D converter; ProTools Workstation; B&W 802 Nautilus loudspeakers; STAX headphones

Executive producer: Robert von Bahr
Reviews (1)

Review by John Broggio - March 27, 2006

This is my first exposure to Suzuki's Bach project and whilst it won't be my last it does make me sad that more of these fine musicians' work has not been captured in surround sound for SACD.

Before discussing the performances themselves, the notes from Klaus Hofmann (who appears to be the musicologist behind the project) are exemplary. They relate the music to the relevant biblical passages as well as discussing the music itself. Masaaki Suzuki also contributes an overview of how he chooses to perform Bach (in terms of texts and textures) which is interesting in its own right.

Quite rightly, the disc has the Easter Oratorio preceding the Ascension Oratorio. The opening instrumental numbers are played with suitable vigour and repose. The text of the opening chorus is very jolly and the whole ensemble gives a very nice lilt to the music which dances in joy at Christ's resurrection. The following recitative for all four soloists displays a more melancholic style (as does the subsequent despairing aria for soprano sung by Yukari Nonoshita with ravishing flute playing from Liliko Maeda) and the soloists all sing with admirable clarity and beauty of tone. The mood then picks up for Jan Kebow's aria about wiping tears of pain from his cheeks. After an aria of self-doubt from Patrick van Goethem (singing as a counter-tenor), there is a suitably upbeat final chorus delivered with enormous stylistic verve.

The Ascension Oratorio then completes the disc with comparable style and grace to the Easter Oratorio. Throughout the orchestral contributions are marvellous and often they are very beautiful (there are no HIP tuning problems as used to be the case all too often in the 1980's) and match the phrasing imparted by the soloists and chorus alike. The chorus itself is a genuine chorus (unlike in Bach: Mass in B minor - Junghänel) with 4 to a part; this surely has to be an ideal combination with purity of tone and unanimity of ensemble combined with great clarity.

The recording that BIS conjures from the Kobe Shoin Women's University Chapel is very beautiful and well balanced. Whilst the stereo recording is very good, the MCH layer opens up the sound in an entirely natural way. Thus the music, performance and recording are in perfect harmony.

All in all a real joy to the ears and the soul. A most appropriate release in the approach to Easter and one that all of Bach's and Suzuki's admirers should not hesitate to sample, if not buy.


Copyright © 2006 John Broggio and


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