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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Cantata No. 65, Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen, BWV 65
Cantata No. 81, Jesus schläft, was soll ich hoffen, BWV 81
Cantata No. 83, Erfreute Zeit im neuen Bunde, BWV 83
Cantata No. 190, Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, BWV 190
Robin Blaze, counter-tenor
James Gilchrist, tenor
Peter Kooij, bass
Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
Rec: February 2002, Kobe Shino Women’s University, Japan
Cantatas vol. 21
BIS CD-1311 [69.32]


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Volume 21 in the ongoing cycle of cantata recordings by Masaaki Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan contains four cantatas written in Leipzig in 1724. This disc includes a curiosity: the first and second movements of cantata BWV 190 were reconstructed, one by Masaaki Suzuki and the other by his son Masato Suzuki. In addition, these cantatas feature only male soloists, though none of them are solo cantatas; all three soloists sing in each cantata.

It is increasingly difficult to review the discs in this series. The quality of these performances and recordings is consistently high, and Masaaki Suzuki, in my opinion, is the best conductor of Bach's cantatas today. His control of the choir, the subtle qualities of the instrumentalists, and his choice of soloists is generally excellent. His group, the Bach Collegium Japan, has developed a great deal of experience with these works, having traversed one-third of the cantatas, as well as recording and touring with the two Passions.

Some of the highlights of this recording are Robin Blaze's aria Jesus Schlaft, was soll ich hoffen? in BWV 81, a fine aria with flute obbligato and a rich continuo. It is good to hear Blaze again; the alto in Volume 20 was very good, but I find Blaze's voice to be ideal for these works. This entire cantata is dense; there are none of the arias where a soloist sings with a small continuo group.

Like cantata BWV 81, BWV 83 opens with an aria for alto, reminiscent of some of the festive movements in the Christmas Oratorio, and the horns and oboes give it that extra energy that heightens the mood. The tenor aria is excellent (James Gilchrist sings very well here), but this is a strangely unbalanced cantata with three first movements ranging from around 4 minutes to almost 7 minutes each followed by a brief recitative and short chorale, each less than one minute.

Cantata BWV 190 leaves room for debate. With the first two movements reconstructed, one can certainly question the validity of the choices made. The vocal scores exist, but the remainder of the music for these movements was recreated. Suzuki gives detailed justifications for his choices in the liner notes (and I finally bought a magnifying glass to be able to read them; the font size used for these notes is ridiculously small), but the proof is indeed in the eating. They are certainly convincing enough, and sound like Bach. The opening chorus is the most demanding of the two movements. The second movement is a simpler recitative and chorale, which tends to follow more easily discernable rules in Bach's cantatas. Of course, one cannot listen to them without the realization that they are not authentic, but this in no way lessens the pleasure.

Overall, cantata BWV 190 is a fine work, with some fine arias, such as the alto aria Lobe, Zion, deinen Gott ... and the duet for tenor and bass Nun, Jesus gebe ... The latter is one of those great Bach arias with a small continuo (cello and organ) and a solo instrument playing obbligato (violin).

Yet again, Maasaki Suzuki shows his strength in interpreting and recording Bach's cantatas. This is another fine disc, and a must-have addition to any collection of cantatas.

Kirk McElhearn

Visit the Bach Collegium Japan webpage for reviews of other releases in this series

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