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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Cantata No. 170 Vergnugte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust
(Vergnugte Ruh, beliebte Seelinlust [6:56]; Die Welt, das Sundenhaus [1:47]; Wie jammern mich doch die verkehrten Herzen [7:25]; Wer sollte sich demnach [1:24]; Mir ekelt mehr zu leben [6:46])
Cantata No.82 Ich habe genug
(Ich habe genug [9:41]; Ich habe genug [1:26]; Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen [11:12]; Mein Gott! Wann kommst das schone: Nun! [0:59]; Ich freue mich auf meinem Tod [4:07]
Cantata No. 159, Sehet, wir gehn hinauf gen Jerusalem
(Sehet, wir gehn hinauf gen Jerusalem [3:26]; Ich folge dir nach [4:58]; Nun will ich mich, mein Jesu, uber dich [1:28]; Es ist vollbracht [5:27]; Jesu, deine Passion [1:53])
Janet Baker (mezzo); Robert Tear (tenor); John Shirley-Quirk (bass)
Philip Ledger (harpsichord continuo)
St Anthony Singers
Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Neville Marriner
Recorded in the Decca Studios, West Hampstead, London, January 1966 (BWV 159 and 170) and at St Paul’s Church, Knightsbridge, London, April 1964 (BWV 82)
DECCA ELOQUENCE 476 2684 [69:19]

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A wonderful disc of Bach cantatas with a star cast from Eloquence.

Baker has a gorgeously rich, full and mature voice – powerful without being too heavy. She is an excellent choice of soloist for BWV 170 and BWV 159, with a good range from beautifully calm and tender to impassioned and dramatic. BWV 170 is full of sensitivity, and Baker captures the plangency in the aria “Wie jammern mich doch vie verkehrten Herzen” particularly well.

Another really top option for BWV 170, however, and the one I would probably go for purely on account of my predilection for counter-tenor voices - for their purer, clearer, thinner and more piercing sound - is Herreweghe’s Harmonia Mundi disc with Andreas Scholl. Scholl creates an even more beautiful tone and a greater sense of spirituality than Baker. He is slightly more dramatic in the recitative Die Welt, das Sundenhaus and is lighter, livelier, faster and bouncier in the aria Mir ekelt mehr zu leben.

John Shirley-Quirk is the bass soloist for Ich Habe Genug. He produces a lovely sound, with a gorgeously dark and rich tone, but somehow lacks a little in expression – not enough pathos comes across. I would like more sweetness and tenderness in the Ich Habe Genug recitative and the ensuing aria Schlummert ein, ihn matten Augen. This is otherwise a very decent performance of the work with beautifully sinuous oboe solos from Rachel Lord. Another recording of this cantata that I particularly recommend, however, has Matthias Goerne on Decca.

Goerne is slightly lighter, more tender and dramatic in Ich Habe Genug and his voice is a bit sweeter, yet with a fantastically gruff and dark lower register. The only problem with the Goerne recording is his rather frequent and very audible inhalations. Norrington conducts the Camerata Academica Salzburg on the Goerne recording, and the piece as a whole flows much better than Marriner’s partly because it is slightly faster. It is more lyrical and fluent, with an astoundingly beautiful orchestral sound.

Baker and Shirley-Quirk are joined by Robert Tear for the cantata Sehet, wir gehn hinauf gen Jerusalem. Baker is delightfully sensitive and tender in the eponymous arioso and recitative, Shirley-Quirk well controlled and full of spirituality, and Tear wonderfully dramatic.

On the whole, this is a good disc, with excellent performances. All the works are very well paced, and the Academy responds well under Marriner’s expert baton. The soloists sing beautifully – as is expected from such top names. The sound is good for recordings made during 1964-66.

Although I would recommend the other recordings mentioned for BWV 170 and BWV 82, I would not by any means consider the purchase of this particular recording money wasted.

Em Marshall



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