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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 – 1750)
Sacred Cantatas for Alto
Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust, BWV 170 [20:22]; Wiederstehe doch der Sünde, BWV 54 [11:23]; Gott soll allein mein Herze haben, BWV 169* [22:23]; Bekennen will ich seinen Namen, BWV 200: Bekennen will ich seinen Namen [2:33]; Schlage doch gewünschte Stunde, BWV 53: Schlage doch gewünschte Stunde [5:49]
Marianne Beate Kielland (alto)
Cologne Bach Choir*, Cologne Chamber Orchestra/Helmut Müller-Brühl
rec. DeutschlandRadio, Sendesaal des Funkhauses Köln, Germany, 18-20 Oct, 22-23 Nov 2004. DDD
NAXOS 8.557621 [62:40]
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Marianne Beate Kielland is a young Norwegian mezzo-soprano who graduated from the Norwegian State Academy of Music in Oslo as recently as in the spring of 2000 and after that she made a career, not only in Scandinavia but in the rest of Europe as well. She was a member of the ensemble at the Staatsoper in Hanover for one season but first and foremost she is a concert singer. She has already recorded Bach’s Mass in B minor and the St Matthew Passion which has just been released, These are both for Naxos with Müller-Brühl at the helm.
My first reaction was that this is a fine voice, clean in attack, rounded and well-equalized. She has a special way of attacking long notes with an absolutely straight tone – no vibrato at all and somewhat “hooty” – calling to mind some counter-tenors of the old school. Then again she lets the tone expand and gradually adopts a more vibrant quality. I recall Swedish dramatic soprano Siw Wennberg having a similar attack. It is something one eventually gets used to but I want to point out my reaction so that sensitive readers can listen and judge for themselves before contemplating a purchase. There is, however, no denying her technique: she manages her runs well and she has a good trill. It seems that some of the music on this disc also is a mite low for her: the first aria of BWV 54 for instance where she has some problems being heard above the strings. It might be argued that this was the sound that Bach expected from his boy altos and thus there should be no complaint at all.
As can be expected from the Cologne Chamber Orchestra they offer stylish playing. They use modern instruments it’s true, but having been a period instrument ensemble for eleven years they still play according to historical principles and the result is actually a successful mix of the two worlds. Middle-of-the-road always sounds so condescending but in my book it isn’t. I have collected quite a few of their recordings, both in baroque and classicist repertoire, and I admire them greatly.
The three complete cantatas on this disc are quite different, not least when it comes to scoring. The first, BWV 170, has an oboe d’amore and an organ as obbligato instruments, besides the strings and the continuo. The organ part is quite prominent. The short BWV 54 has only strings and continuo while the longest of them, BWV 169, has two oboes, one oboe da caccia, bassoon and again a concertante organ. This is also the only piece where the choir appears but only in the concluding, short chorale. The remaining two items are alto arias from two other cantatas, thrown in for good measure.
My favourite is BWV 169, not least through the colourful scoring. It has a fine and lively Sinfonia, lasting close to eight minutes. Moreover the solo part is higher-lying which means that Ms Kielland sounds more comfortable with a brighter tone. The choral is well sung by an obviously rather small choir.
The aria Bekennen will ich seinen Namen is lively and refreshing while Schlage doch gewünschte Stunde is rather solemn, written for a funeral service. Besides the strings and continuo there are also bells, lending a special character to the piece.
There is a good note by Peter Reichelt in the inlay but the sung texts and translations, as seems to be the norm nowadays, have to be downloaded from
There is more inspiring Bach to be had but generally speaking these cantatas are in safe hands and the recording leaves little else to be wished.
Göran Forsling

see also review by Kevin Sutton



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