Johann Pachelbel, who
sadly is today known only for the ubiquitous
Canon in D, was a most respected composer
in his own day. His influence extended
all over Germany, and he was certain
to have had an impact on Johann Sebastian
Bach, whose older brother Johann Christoph,
was Pachelbel’s pupil.
Sadly, this recording
of Sacred Cantatas misses the boat at
so many ports, that what could have
been a very welcome addition to the
library is too flawed to be taken seriously.
There are so many artistic problems
in this performance that it would be
dull to list them individually, so I
will take the liberty of making a list
of general comments that on the whole
pertain to all of the pieces on the
First there is the
question of balance. Roland Wilson uses
ten singers, five soli and five ripienists.
Given the festive nature of this music,
which often includes trumpets and drums,
there is simply not enough voice to
balance the instruments. Consequently,
vocal counterpoint is obliterated, and
one often has to mentally fill in the
blanks of what cannot be clearly heard.
Next there is the issue
of vocal style. Here the issues are
myriad. Let us begin the "earlier
than thou" sound of the sopranos,
whose close-throated, overwrought with
messa di voce singing is an annoyance
from the get-go. Next comes counter-tenor
soloist Ralf Popken, whose quality of
tone is at worst just plain poor. There
is no core to the sound, no particular
beauty to the tone, phrasing or expression.
The tenor and the bass fare little better.
Also bothersome is
the lack of ensemble amongst the singers
when singing as a choir. There is no
unity to the choral sound. Rather we
hear a mixed bag of individualist voices
that stick out in odd places, making
for a sound that is disjunct at best,
unpleasant at worst.
Wilson delivers fairly
run-of-the-mill interpretations of pieces
that should be bursting with energy
and emotion. They seem to me to be simply
faxed in. To his credit, his instrumental
ensemble plays with vigour and precision.
This is not enough to save an otherwise
poorly executed program. Frankly, I
am quite surprised that CPO, a label
famous for its excellence, let this
one out of the studio. This is a company
that can and has done considerably better
in the past, and it is disappointing
that their fine catalogue is marred
by this very second-rate performance.
Notes, packaging and
sound quality are excellent, but I cannot
recommend buying the disc just for the
cover art and booklet essay. A let-down
on most counts.