The jewel of this latest volume is the celebrated cantata Ich
habe genung/genug (I am content, BWV 82) describing
the story of old man Simeon's meeting with Christ in the temple.
The work also appears to have been a favourite of Bach himself.
The three majestic arias were first written for bass (as performed
here) and four year later for soprano. First performed in February
1727 for the feast of Purification, Bach returned to the work
at several points, making final revisions just two years before
This is a beautifully
judged and warmly recorded performance, featuring Peter Kooij
taking on the role of Simeon, joyfully anticipating death
after finding consolation in Christ. It is the third recording
of Kooij in this work, with his excellent performance under
Philippe Herreweghe still available on Harmonia Mundi [HAR
1951365]. Although both recordings have near identical running
times, the new performance is imbued with a greater serenity
and easy confidence that I find particularly convincing.
Those not yet
familiar with Falsche Welt, dir trau ich nicht (False
world, I do not trust you), BWV 52, may nevertheless immediately
recognise the opening Sinfonia – it is an early version
of the first movement of Brandenburg Concerto no. 1. Although
lacking the violino piccolo part of its later incarnation,
it provides a tremendously involving start to the cantata.
Nevertheless, I am not convinced that it 'fits' with the rest
of the work, which is generally marked by an austere and damning
text ('Here I must live among scorpions and among false serpents
...'). Perhaps this lack of perceived continuity partly explains
why it is rarely recorded except in complete cantatas projects.
It's well performed here, with the second aria particularly
well served by Carolyn Sampson's expressive singing supported
by woodwind and strings.
BWV 55 is another
relatively unknown work, and the only surviving cantata written
by Bach for solo tenor. Given that much of the vocal work
requires singing at the top end of the tenor's scale, it can
stretch all but the most flexible of soloists. I am happy
to report, however, that Gerd Türk has risen admirably to
the challenge, and joins the likes of Peter Schreier, Ernst
Haefliger and Nicolai Gedda as 'owners' of this cantata. If
I had to single out key movements they would be the lilting
first aria, marked by feelings of sadness and lamentation
and the concluding strophe, also heard the following year
in the St Matthew Passion.
The final work
on this disc is BWV 58, optimistically entitled Ach Gott,
wie manches Herzeleid (Ah God, how much unhappiness)
BWV 58. The text reflects on the flight into Egypt and
the Massacre of the Innocents, re-interpreting it as a fight
for survival of the soul against spiritual enemies. Written
for two voices - ably performed here by Sampson and Kooij
- Bach fashions a beautiful dialogue between God and the soul.
The central movement, an aria for soprano, deserves special
mention for Sampson's expressive singing and the plaintive
solo violin work. The final movement, a duet in chorale-fantasia
form, rounds off another excellent edition in this series.
The packaging is not
quite up to the usual standards, with BWV 58 given the wrong title
on the back of the CD case – a small but sloppy mistake. The quality
of the performances, however, easily matches the rest of the series
– and the recorded sound is superb.