Warner Classics on
their mid-price Elatus series of previously
released material have issued well regarded
1958 performances for Teldec of three
sacred cantatas by J.S. Bach from the
baton of eminent conductor Karl Richter.
Bach wrote this strikingly
original Cantata Halt im Gedächtnis
Jesum Christ, (Hold in remembrance
Jesus Christ) BWV 67 at Leipzig in 1724
for the first Sunday after Easter. The
text is provided by an unidentified
author and is closely allied to a Gospel
reading from John XX 19-31, which contains
the story of the ‘doubting Thomas’.
Unlike the music Bach had performed
during the Easter festival itself, for
which he had fallen back on earlier
cantatas, Halt im Gedächtnis
Jesum Christ was entirely new. In
both content and formal symmetry the
work resembles five other cantatas scheduled
for the subsequent Sundays, leading
some writers to believe that Bach conceived
them as a little cycle within the larger
one embracing the liturgical year.
American Bass Keith
Engen is particular effective in his
celebrated Aria: Friede sei mit euch!
(Peace be unto you!) which duets
most successfully with the chorus. The
voice of English born tenor Peter Pears
has often divided opinion. Although
recorded at around the time of his prime
I feel that Pears is not at his best
in his Aria: Mein Jesu ist erstanden
(My Saviour is risen) where he seems
to be struggling with the demands of
the phrasing, like an acrobat uncomfortably
leaping from trapeze to trapeze.
Bach concluded his
great second cycle of sacred cantatas
(1724-5) with an unbroken sequence of
nine works set to texts by the Leipzig
poetess and gifted amateur musician,
Christiane Mariane von Ziegler. The
Cantata Es ist euch gut, daß
ich hingehe (For you it is best that
we be parted / It is for your good that
I go) BWV 108 is the second of the
nine von Ziegler texts and uses settings
from John, Chapter 16. The Cantata was
first performed at Leipzig in 1725 for
the fourth Sunday after Easter.
Pears redeems himself
in his tenor Aria: Mich kann klein
Zweifel storen (All care and doubt defying)
with its violin obbligato
in a sensitive and refined performance.
The distinguished third and final Aria
in the Cantata Was mein Herz
von dir begehrt (Thou wilt fill my heart’s
desire) is for contralto and strings.
Austrian Contralto Lilian Benningsen
offers an extremely successful and attractive
interpretation which displays Bach's
undoubted genius for word painting.
First performed at
Leipzig in 1725 on Quinquagesima Sunday,
the Cantata Herr Jesu Christ, wahr'r
Mensch und Gott (Thou who, a God, as
man yet come / Lord Jesus Christ, true
man and God) BWV 127 uses texts
by Paul Eber and probably Christian
Friedrich Henrici. Renowned Bach scholar
Alfred Dürr has written, "Listening
to the cantatas Bach wrote for Quinquagesima
one gets the impression that he devoted
special care to this Sunday of the Church’s
year… Almost all of them bear the mark
of specially high artistic skill."
For me the highlight
of this finely sustained work is the
performance of Austrian soprano Antonia
Fahberg. Accompanied by a lovely melody
for the oboe, the soprano in
her Aria: Die Seele ruht in Jesu
Handen (My soul will rest in Jesus’
keeping), gives a beguiling and
beautifully restrained performance.
Using modern instruments
with no attempt at period informed performance
practice, Bach specialist Karl Richter
directs the forces of the Münchner
Bach-Chor and Members of the Orchestra
of Münchner Staatsoper with abundant
precision and splendid refinement. With
admirable clarity and first-rate balance
these 46 year old performances are standing
up remarkably well. Really interesting
and informative annotation by Nicholas
Anderson who never seems to disappoint.
It is good to have
these splendid performances back in
the catalogue. Although there are alternative
versions of each work that I prefer
I do not know of any single CD that
currently offers the same three Cantatas.
An impressive achievement by Karl Richter!
This Elatus release is worthy of inclusion
in any collection of Bach Cantatas.