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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Cantatas of 1724
Gelobet  seist du, Jesu Christ, BWV91  (1724) [15.32] Nimm von uns Herr, du treuer Gott, BWV101  (1724) [26.15]
Christum wir sollen loben schon, BWV121 (1724) [16.42]
Ich freue mich in dir, BWV133 (1724) [17.35]
Yukari Nonoshita (soprano), Robin Blaze (counter-tenor), Gerd Turk (tenor), Peter Kooij (bass)
Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
rec.  September 2004, Kobe Shoin Women’s University Chapel, Japan
BIS SACD-1481 [77.25]


Bach’s cantatas offer such opportunities to the music-lover that there are new glories always awaiting discovery. So it proves in this group of four, collected to form Volume 31 of Bach Collegium Japan’s continuing cycle.
 
The common thread linking the collection is that they were all composed in 1724, during Bach’s second year at Leipzig. Three of these cantatas have Christmas associations, whereas BWV101, Nimm von uns Herr, was composed for the tenth Sunday after Trinity. They are all four based upon hymn texts, incorporating the associated melodies from the Lutheran church. Bach had worked out his artistic priorities for the task of providing the music for Sundays, and this was one of the methods he chose. His working week was invariably busy and he had deadlines to meet.
 
Each of these cantatas is characterised by an imaginative and even exhilarating opening chorus. It would seem appropriate to describe these opening movements as the jewel in the crown of all four pieces. Not that they sound the same, however. One of Bach’s most extraordinary achievements lies in the way he can continually develop the possibilities offered by similar procedures, and with so many different results.
 
The extended chorus of BWV133 is perhaps the most striking and uplifting music to be heard among this collection. Moreover Suzuki’s buoyant tempo ensures that this is so. Perhaps the choral singing could have been even more joyous - with the addition of a few more voices? - but as it is the results remain impressive, aided by the splendid BIS super audio sound.
 
The soloists make a splendid contribution to this particular cantata. Robin Blaze, for example, sings most beautifully, both in his solo aria and in then in duet with the soprano Yukari Nonoshita. Gerd Türk and Peter Kooij are regular artists with Bach Collegium Japan, and to call them dependable is not intended to damn them with faint praise for they are excellent and thoroughly idiomatic.
 
The title of Cantata 91 translates as ‘Praise be to Thee, Jesus Christ’, and Bach’s music could hardly be more joyful. Nor could the performance, since Suzuki sets a sprightly tempo and the choral-orchestral balance perfectly capture the music’s spirit. The recitatives of this cantata characterise the approach throughout, with clearly defined vocal lines captured in a warm and sympathetic acoustic. There is also a sensible and imaginative choice of continuo instrument, including Suzuki on harpsichord.
 
Nimm von uns Herr, du treuer Gott, BWV101, is more austere in its splendour, and makes a telling contrast after the Christmas festivities. The development of the chorale theme in the complex texture offers a wonderful example of Bach’s contrapuntal mastery, particularly since the lines of the winds and strings are so atmospherically caught by the recording. A particular virtue of Christum wir sollen loben schon (Lord Christ we sing Thy praises), BWV121, is that it has two wonderful arias. One is for the tenor and one for the bass, and they each feature some of Bach’s most appealingly melodious music. As such this disc is a perfect introduction to this wonderfully rich repertoire, truly music’s greatest treasure trove.

Terry Barfoot
 

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