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Johann Ludwig BACH (1677-1731)
Das Blut Jesu Christi [7:40]
Das ist meine Freude [4:40]
Die richtig für sich gewandelt haben [11:25]
Gedenke meiner, mein Gott [10:45] *
Gott, sei uns gnädig [5:21] +
Ich habe dich ein klein Augenblick verlassen [8:15]
Ich will auf den Herren schauen [6:58]
Sei nun wieder zufrieden, meine Seele [8:43]
Uns ist ein Kind geboren [6:40]
Wir wissen, so unser irdisches Haus [7:00]
Stephan Van Dijck (tenor)*, Dirk Snellings (bass)+
Ex Tempore Gent/Orpheon Consort/Florian Heyerick
rec. l'église de Boissières-Saint Gérard
CARUS 83187 [77:36]

Johann Ludwig Bach, cousin of the rather more famous J.S, was active in Meiningen in 1699. By 1711 he was the court director of music. His speciality was sacred music and, despite the depredations of time, a relatively large number of such compositions have survived. There are twenty-two sacred cantatas, eleven motets, Funeral Music and a Mass, as well as secular cantatas, an orchestral suite and, rather intriguingly, a double violin concerto.

The motets are typical products of the Thuringian school being strongly homophonic and were written for specific occasions. They’re polychoral – usually a double choir with two four-part choirs. The settings are extensive as well, though not all the verses have been recorded here, otherwise the motets would have qualified as cantatas in terms of length.
The mixed choir is joined by a viol consort for the disc. The results are very pleasing and effective, though I was occasionally concerned by overstressing of sibilants – especially noticeable in Das Blut Jesu Christi. The settings are in the main oriented away from any overtly theatrical musical elaboration of the texts. So whilst there is certainly expressive depth Johann Ludwig remains within expressive boundaries at all times. There is certainly celebratory and affirmatory writing in Das ist meine Freude  - a setting teeming with joy, whose overlapping power and telling fervency of expression and textual repetitions pile up powerfully. It’s valuably contrasted with the contemplative Die richtig für sich gewandelt haben though the setting’s essentially slow progression does not precluded faster sections or opportunities for internal dynamic contrast.
The most telling and important writing for the consort comes in Ich will auf den Herren schauen, a potent and immediately attractive setting. The performance has plenty of well-directed energy and if there are hints of that too-sibilant attack, then compensation derives from the splendid and rapt diminuendi on repeated phrases. There are roles for two soloists. Of the two it’s the bass in Gott, sei uns gnädig who bears considerably the greater technical weight; Dirk Snellings acquits himself well.
These polychoral settings are enjoyable, sometimes refined, often exciting, and occasionally, it has to be admitted, more run-of-the-mill. The performers are generally fine, certainly in respect of technique, and there are texts in German and English.
Jonathan Woolf


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