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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Cantata No.20, "O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort", BWV 20
Cantata No.7, "Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam", BWV 7
Cantata No.94, "Was frag ich nach der Welt", BWV 94
Peter Kooij, bass
Robin Blaze, counter-tenor
Jan Kobow, tenor
Yukari Nonoshita, soprano
Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki (harpsichord)
Rec.: 19-24 April 2002, Kobe Shoin Women’s University Chapel, Japan. DDD
Cantatas vol. 22: Cantatas from Leipzig 1724
BIS-CD-1321 [73:17]


Masaaki Suzuki’s ongoing J.S. Bach cantata cycle with the acclaimed Bach Collegium Japan on BIS has reached volume 22 and continues to go from strength to strength. Here Bis and Masaaki deliver three cantatas composed in 1724 from Bach’s very early period as cantor at the St. Thomas church in Leipzig. He wrote almost two hundred church cantatas that are without equal in liturgical music. The great master’s invention in these cantatas is so varied with abundant technical resources, subtle expression and penetrating insight.

For those who are not familiar with the Bach Collegium Japan, they are an orchestra and choir founded by their director and keyboard player Masaaki Suzuki in 1990. The orchestra are renowned as Japan’s foremost period instrument performers and strive for authentic interpretations of baroque sacred music specialising in the work of J.S. Bach. For this recording Suzuki has selected period instruments such as the tromba da tirarsi which is a single slide natural trumpet, the oboe d’amore, the traverse flute and a colourful and varied basso continuo.

Devised in two sections the cantata No. 20, O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort (O eternity, thou thunderous word) was composed for the first Sunday after Trinity and was the start of a series of cantatas which did not relate principally to the gospel reading for that day but were associated with popular hymns. The eleven movement work has a text mainly concerned with matters of hell and damnation for the sinner yet the resolute music has many really beautiful moments. Three oboe’s, two oboe d’amores and a tromba da tirarsi have prominent roles in the cantata. Particularly impressive is the Aria (track 5) O man, save your soul…where the three oboes, continuo and the spirited bass soloist Peter Kooij blend together so magnificently. Bach’s frequent use of the tromba da tirarsi, so wonderfully played by soloist Toshio Shimada, is inspired and adds extra grandeur and a real sense of ceremony to the proceedings.

The text of cantata No.7, Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam (Christ our Lord came to the Jordan) emphasises the importance of baptism to the Christian faith and was composed to celebrate the feast day of John the Baptist. The baroque violins take an important part in the score playing a concertante role with significant use of the oboe d’amore, all performed most admirably by these talented players. I have to single out the counter-tenor Robin Blaze who is in superb voice in his solo Aria, Mankind, believe in this grace… (track 17). Supported by oboe d’amores and violins his colouration is fresh and bright in a dignified and highly impressive performance.

Bach composed his cantata No.94, Was frag ich nach der Welt (What do I ask of this world) for the ninth Sunday after Trinity. The composer must have had the services of a most gifted traverse flute player at his disposal at St. Thomas’s to perform the highly virtuosi demands of the part which is splendidly executed by soloist Kiyomi Suga. Radiant sopranoYukari Nonoshita is remarkably successful in her only solo aria on the release, May he care about the blind world (track 25). I was delighted by the soprano’s dance-like interpretation which is most expressive and extremely uplifting.

The state-of-the-art sound quality and the comprehensive and vastly informative booklet notes are a real credit to the BIS label and put more renowned record labels to shame. Director Suzuki and this select team of vocalists and instrumentalists deliver exceptional performances that would be difficult to surpass. Highly recommended and without reservation.

Michael Cookson


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

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