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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Cantatas Volume 23: Cantatas from Leipzig 1724
Cantata No. 10 "Meine Seel erhebt den Herren", BWV 10 [18'39"]
For the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, (2nd July 1724)
SATB soli, chorus, continuo and orchestra
Cantata No. 93 "Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten", BWV 93 [19'27"]
For the Fifth Sunday after Trinity, (9th July 1724)
SATB soli, chorus, continuo and orchestra
Cantata No. 107 "Was willst du dich betrüben", BWV 107 [17'26"]
For the Seventh Sunday after Trinity, (23rd July 1724)
SATB soli, chorus, continuo, organ and orchestra
Cantata No.178 "Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält", BWV 178 [18'47"]
For the Eighth Sunday after Trinity, (30th July 1724)
SATB soli, chorus, continuo, organ and orchestra
Yukari Nonoshita (sop); Matthew White (alto); Makoto Sakurada (ten); Peter Kooij (bs)
The Bach Collegium Japan Chorus and Orchestra/Masaaki Suzuki
Recorded in the Kobe Shoin Women's University Chapel, Japan on 31 May - 4 June 2002
BIS CD-1331 [75'43"]
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This series has been amazing for the fresh insight it offers into Bach's prodigious output of choral works. It has been rewarding for the scholarly interpretations which comes as no surprise when one takes into account Masaaki Suzuki's impeccable training.

This disc, with very few exceptions, proves as admirable a presentation as its precursors. The cantatas are all contemporaneous, namely for July 1724 (only 280 years ago!) but in these interpretations they sound as fresh as if they had been composed only yesterday. The same remarks apply to all the performances, so except for some very brief remarks, I shall not dwell at any length on the individual cantatas.

It is remarkable how a Japanese choir and soloists can cope with the German language. However, cope with it they do, and in a manner that puts many a native choir (and soloists) to shame. The diction is crisp and accurate but without any undue accent upon phrases and words. In all instances where indicated the tempi are brisk and light and this is matched by clear clean singing from all soloists. The clear enunciation of the choruses and chorales from this smallish choir also adds greatly to the result. This serves to bring out the intimacy of the performances. Again, the balance between both soloists and choir and orchestra is well worked out, neither overpowering the other. The series has produced some excellent soloists, whom I should expect to see in other productions; the soprano Yukari Nonoshita is one, and the bass Peter Kooij, has in general been outstanding, with a rich timbre and dominating delivery where necessary. Having said this, there is a bass aria in Cantata No.178 (track 17) where even he sounds rushed, so fast are the speeds. On this disc Matthew White seems quite a "find". He has a sweet tone and delivers well versed interpretations. Robin Blaze was one of his predecessors, which only adds to the pedigree of the performances.

The "orchestra" is very small, consisting of three each of first and second violins, two violas, and two oboes (either da caccia or d'amore) - a specification common to all the cantatas. In addition, no. 10 adds a trombone, no. 178 a horn, and no. 107 a horn and two flutes. The continuo is a combination of bassoon, ’cello, double-bass and harpsichord or organ.

One could continue eulogising on individuals in these recordings, but suffice it to say that the interpretations and performances are satisfying in every way. The presentation is scholarly without becoming "dry" and the booklet is most informative. The recording is in every way true and faithful. The only thing one could miss is a miniature score - any thoughts on this, possibly as an optional extra?

Further issues in this series are eagerly awaited.

John Portwood

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

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