Bach: Cantatas through the Liturgical Year, Vol. 6 - Kuijken

Bach: Cantatas through the Liturgical Year, Vol. 6 - Kuijken

Accent  ACC 25306

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Vocal

Bach: Cantatas BWV 18, BWV 23 & BWV 1

Siri Thornhill (soprano)
Petra Noskaiová (alto)
Marcus Ullmann (tenor)
Jan van der Crabben (bass)
La Petite Bande
Sigiswald Kuijken (conductor)

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Reviews (1)

Review by John Broggio - October 21, 2008

This, the sixth volume of the projected series of 20 discs, contains BWV 18 "Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt", 23 "Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn" and 1 "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern" and these were written for the last two Sundays before Lent (BWV 18 and 23) and the Feast of the Annunciation of Mary (BWV 1). Like most of the previous volumes, Kuijken and his team make for captivating listening throughout.

In the opening of BWV 18 "Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt", the instruments are supposed to depict the falling of rain and snow from the heavens - this is one instance where Bach's musical ear does not paint the sounds which he describes as well as he might; there is little that Kuijken et al can do to prevent the snow sound more like clods of earth hitting the ground but that is in no way meant as a criticism of the playing. Here the added oboes (the original performances in Weimar were purely for strings and continuo) add a grace to the textures and are played most wonderfully by Bart Coen and Dimos De Beun. Before the mainstay of the work, the wonderful "complex accompanied recitative" (Kuijken), a bass recitative is heard that is vividly declaimed by Jan Van der Crabben. This complex recitative is a series of prayers, urgently enunciated by the tenor (Marcus Ullman) and interspersed with pleading from the chorus (as ever in this series, one to a part) that is left in mid-air by Bach before the soprano aria that is penultimate in this cantata. Siri Thornhill's sings with an absolute radiant purity that is very captivating and the unison recorders and violas match her phrase for phrase. There follows a short concluding choral for chorus and orchestra.

BWV 23 replaces violas with violins and recorders with oboes and dispenses with the bassoon that is found in the choral episodes of BWV 18, although (disappointingly and somewhat inconsistently) Kuijken decides not to employ the trombones Bach scored for the second and subsequent performances. The poignant duet that opens the work is given tender expression by Thornhill and Petra Noskaiova. A brief tenor recitative then precedes the chorus "Aller Augen warten, Herr" with rising vocal lines depicting the search for inspiration from on high which receives a performance with matched approaches to phrasing from instrumentalists and chorus alike. The concluding chorale "Christe, du Lamm Gottes" is much more varied in the textures Bach employs and also the differentiation of material supplied to each part of chorus and orchestra; good though the playing and singing is so far, this is a curtain raiser to the highpoint of the disc.

BWV 1 has the most varied orchestration of all three works, adding a pair of horns to the ensemble employed for BWV 23. Both the horn players, Claude Maury and Helen McDougall, must be given a nod here as their contribution is of real quality and distinction that marks itself above previous generations in playing of this style of music. Opening with a grand chorus that is very ebullient, it gives a chance for the orchestra to shine as well as the singers - and shine they do. This is Bach at his best, with counterpoint and suspensions reigning supreme as the chorus alternately participate in and diverge from this outpouring of joy. Two brief recitatives (tenor and bass respectively) introduce the two substantial arias of the cantata (for soprano and tenor respectively), all of which are sung with an ease of expression that belies the expressive rigours of the other works before a final chorale restores a sense of calm to the proceedings.

All in all, this is easily the finest volume released yet and to match the wonderful performances Accent have recorded this volume in a concert hall (Auditorium C. Pollini, Padova) rather than a church acoustic. Whilst this may not be the most obvious choice for a cantata performance, the sound is now completely clear in multi-channel sound with just the right amount of sheen added to the singers and orchestra.

One slight gripe is that the otherwise comprehensive and highly illuminating notes from Kuijken himself omit the texts and translations for the Aria and Choral for BWV 18 (all others are present) - presumably a printing error; not a substantial issue as these can all be found readily online.

Highly recommended.

Copyright © 2008 John Broggio and


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