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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Cantatas, Vol. 27

Ein feste Burg, BWV80 (1723) [23.40]
Wo soll ich fliehen hin, BWV5 (1724) [20.51]
Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit, BWV115 (1724) [22.44]
Suzanne Rydén (soprano), Pascal Bertin (counter tenor), Gerd Turk (tenor), Peter Kooy (bass)
Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
rec. 6-9 September 2003, Kobe Shoin Women’s University Chapel, Japan
BIS BIS-CD-1421 [68.18]

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Another volume in Suzuki’s impressive cantatas cycle, this time combining Leipzig cantatas from Bach’s first years in the city, with the Reformation cantata Ein feste Burg, which had its roots ten years earlier in Weimar but reached its final version in Leipzig. In fact it is not even as simple as that. For decades later, Bach’s son Carl Philipp Emanuel made his own performing edition, adding trumpets and drums to bring an extra, more melodramatic, sense of drama.

Needless to say, Suzuki opts for Bach’s Leipzig original here. The opening chorus sets the tone, and is an interesting amalgam of solo and ensemble voices, the textures enriched as the contrapuntal complexities build. It is a most successful ploy, though for the listener expecting the immediate deployment of the chorus it comes as a shock. But with each hearing it convinces more and more, and the balance between clarity and richness is well made. The chorus itself, of course, is a tour-de-force of imagination and organisation.

Gerd Turk and Pascal Bertin make a compelling combination in the duet with obbligato oboe da caccia that lies at the heart of the work. Taken as a whole, this cantata is performed with a well articulated vision of long-term goals as well as short-term details.

Although less famous, the other two cantatas are equally inspired. BWV5 has one of Bach’s most fluent arias, in which the tenor voice is accompanied by an unusual obbligato: the viola. By way of contrast the bass, Peter Kooy, has an aria whose approach is at the opposite extreme: declamatory and with noisy instrumental support. The fast tempo leads to problems here, and the trumpet, for example, does not gel with the ensemble.

BWV115 opens with a wonderful chorus, whose textures are beautifully clear in Suzuki’s performance. All credit too must be accorded the BIS engineers, who have done such sterling work in relation to this project. As such this chorus exemplifies their contribution perfectly. There are fine arias too, with Bach at his most lyrically sensitive. The scoring in the second of them is extraordinary: flute, ‘cello piccolo’, and continuo, with an unequivocal Molto adagio tempo which is definitely Bach’s own and not editorial. Susanne Rydén is on excellent form in this beautiful number, and this cantata is therefore the discovery among this appealing collection.

Terry Barfoot

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

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