We don’t know for certain when these three sonatas were written,
nor do we know the exact purpose. According to Bach’s handwritten
notation on the title page of cantata BWV 51, it was written for
the 15th Sunday after Trinity, but the text has nothing
in common with the readings on that day. There is also a further
notation that says it’s suitable ‘at any time’. It is believed
to have been written in September 1730.
BWV 208 is a secular
cantata and one of only two by his hand to an Italian text.
Presumably it was composed between 1729 and 1734 but it is
not known for what occasion and some scholars even question
BWV 210 is one
of only two surviving wedding cantatas. It is supposed to
have been written in the early 1740s.
All three works
demand a virtuoso soprano with easy coloratura. In BWV 51
she is partnered by a solo trumpeter with expertise in florid
playing. Josh Cohen fulfils all our expectations on this disc.
In BWV 209 he is replaced by the eminent flautist Colin St.
Martin, who is joined by Gonzalo Xavier Ruiz’ oboe d’amore
in BWV 210 – an instrument designated for expressing love.
Bach Consort, playing on period instruments, under their founder
and director J. Reilly Lewis, are an excellent ensemble and
they are responsive to dance rhythms that Bach employ ever
so often in his music. The second aria of BWV 209 dances in
an almost rural manner (tr. 10), and the conclusion of BWV
210 (tr. 20) is close to big band swing.
is certainly a versatile singer, whose repertoire embraces
music from baroque to the present day. She was for instance
Stella in the world premiere of André Previn’s opera A
Streetcar Named Desire and she is a much sought-after
Lucia di Lammermoor. She has a wide range of expression and
in BWV 51 she nicely contrasts the virtuoso outer movements
with an inward and almost otherworldly – seemingly at some
distance – reading of the recitative (tr. 2), while she initially
adopts a thinner tone – Emma Kirkby-like – in the chorale
(tr. 4). She blends well with the flute in BWV 209 and is
overtly dramatic in the opening recitative of BWV 210 (tr.
11). Technically she is superb and I have nothing but praise
for her readings. I have long admired Edith Mathis in BWV
209 (Archiv), which she recorded with the Berlin Chamber Orchestra
under Peter Schreier. The modern instruments of the Berlin
orchestra lend the music a softer edge that goes well with
Mathis’ slightly warmer tone. But Elizabeth Futral’s readings
are excellent and the recorded sound clean and atmospheric
– though nowhere on the jewel-box or in the booklet was I
able to find where it was made, and when.
That is a minor
blemish and at least producer and engineer are credited on
the back cover. The disc would be a worthy addition to any
collection of Bach’s vocal music.