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Len Mullenger:

Cantata No.188 Ich habe meine Zuversicht
Cantata No.190 Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied
Cantata No.191 Gloria in excelsis Deo
Cantata No.192 Nun danket alle Gott
Arleen Auger, Nobuko Gamo-Yamamoto, Helen Donath (sopranos)
Julia Hamari, Helen Watts (altos)
Aldo Baldin, Kurt Equiluz, Adalbert Kraus (tenors)
Walter Heldwein, Niklaus Tüller (basses)
Gächinger Kantorei
Württembergisches Kammerorchester Heilbronn, Bach-Collegium Stuttgart/Helmuth Rilling Recorded 1971/74/77/78/83 respectively
HÄENSSLER EDITION VOL. 57 CD 92057 [73.13] Edition Bachakademie


Here is Bach the self-borrower exposed in all his glory from the exploding start of Cantata No.188, where, as an opening Sinfonia, what we hear is none other than the finale to the D minor harpsichord concerto brilliantly played by its arranger Martha Schuster. It needs an arrangement as the score and its parts were broken up and dispersed after Bach's death, possibly to raise money. Parry, in his biography of the composer, conjectured that Bach used the concerto's finale (the first two movements had already been used in No.146) to show off improvements made to the organ at St Thomas' Church, Leipzig around 1730 (Rilling puts it a couple of years earlier, though followed by a ?). Thereafter the positive flavour of the cantata's title ('I have now all my confidence in my true God') is reflected in a sprightly aria sung and played respectively with fervour by tenor Aldo Baldin and the orchestra's oboist. Bach's favoured trio setting continues with Julia Hamari's wistfully sung aria to an interwoven organ obbligato and cello bass line before the conventional chorale to end a justly rescued gem.

The tenor solo cantata No.189 has now been reassigned to the composer Melchior Hoffmann and so is not included as part of the project of all Bach's cantatas, therefore the next one definitely attributable to Bach is No.190, ('Sing to the Lord a new song') a cantata written for New Year's Day and not to be confused with the motet of the same name. Notable among its movements is a chorale constantly interrupted by recitatives for its three soloists, a duet of exceptional beauty for tenor and bass accompanied by oboe d'amore and continuo, a recitative for the tenor Kurt Equiluz in glorious voice and discarding his more famous role as the Evangelist in Bach's Passions in which he excelled for years, and the final chorale in which Bach introduces uplifting trumpets and drums, which must have thrilled congregations of his day.

Nos.191 and 192 are short, three-movement works, each a pair of choruses framing a vocal duet. The former is the Gloria which had been used in 1733 in the B minor Mass and really does not qualify as a cantata, despite its inclusion in the first edition of the complete works, because Bach did not write any in Latin. It dates from the 1740s and was performed on Christmas Day. Rilling's account gives stature to the chorus, while the ensuing duet for tenor and soprano ('Gloria Patri') entwines the counterpoint of two flutes against the flowing tread of string pizzicato in a magical performance recorded, like everything else on this cd, in the spacious acoustic of Stuttgart's Gedächtsniskirche, while fearless D trumpets soar above the choir in 'Sicut erat in principio' to conclude this welcome reminder of the marvel from which it is extracted.

There are ten non-liturgical cantatas in which Bach sets all the verses of a hymn, No.192 was one of them and probably dates from about 1730 using Martin Rinckart's famous tune 'Now thank we all our God'. As it did at the start of this disc, the orchestra gets to shine once again, Rilling encouraging both a full-bodied string texture and highlighting strands of interweaving woodwinds in the outer choral numbers.

This is a delightful recording with variety aplenty and no weak links among either soloists, chorus or orchestra. Its best music is the opening Sinfonia and makes you wish that Bach had made a habit of starting his cantatas more often with such virtuosic instrumental music - the one to No.29 also springs to mind, but that's another story.

Christopher Fifield



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