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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Cantatas: Volume 32 (Cantatas from Leipzig, 1725)
Was mein Gott will, das gíscheh allzeit, BWV111 (1725) [16:40]
Liebster Immanuel, Herzog der Frommen, BWV123 (1725) [20:05]
Meinem Jesum laŖ ich nicht, BWV124 (1725) [13:05]
Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin, BWV125 (1725) [23:17]
Yukari Nonoshita (soprano), Robin Blaze (counter-tenor), Andreas Weller (tenor), Peter Kooij (bass)
Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
rec. February 2005, Kobe Shoin Womenís University Chapel, Japan
BIS-SACD-1501 [74:28]
 


Four cantatas from 1725 are gathered in this latest issue in Masaaki Suzukiís BIS collection of Bach cantatas. This was the composerís second year at Leipzig, during which his creative approach in composing cantatas was to base the music around chorales which were stated in clear at the end. Generally the chorales were hymn tunes well known to the Lutheran congregation, but for Bach they represented a musical challenge which brought a different technical and creative response from one composition to the next.
 
The opening chorus of BWV111 is among the most complex of Bachís choral cantata movements, operating on several levels simultaneously. The orchestra of winds and strings plays what amounts to a concerto movement, with clearly articulated thematic material, while for the most part the vocal contribution is that of hymn tune, with extended lines for the sopranos while the remaining voices sing in close imitation. Since Bachís greatest achievement lies in the field of counterpoint, this movement is a classic example of his genius operating at the highest standard. It is at once complex yet clear, and as such represents a challenge to the musical director and the recording engineer. In this first track Suzuki and his BIS engineer, Jens Braun, score a notable success, and the performance is hugely satisfying, tempo and texture perfectly articulated.
 
In this cantata and its fellows Peter Kooij outlines the words of his recitatives and arias with admirable clarity, while the phrasing allows the reprise of the chorale theme to make its articulating point. Bach was rather fond of combining voices in duet, and this requirement of teamwork is confidently met by these singers. There is no better example than Robin Blaze and Andreas Weller in the uplifting fourth movement, So geh ich mit beherzten Schritten (So I go with heartened steps), in which the resonant strings add another dimension besides.
 
The other three cantatas match the standard of BWV111, but even so it seems perfectly reasonable to suggest that BWV125, Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin, is the jewel in the crown. Certainly Bach composed few choruses to match the beauty of the opening movement, with voices and instruments combining in contrapuntal texture of great beauty and refinement. Suzuki explores the details of texture that add to the general experience, for example giving just the right point to the additional lines woven by the oboes and the transverse flute, the latter making a special impression from the very beginning.
 
Robin Blaze sings with the utmost sensitivity in the contemplative aria that follows, when the woodwinds make their mark once again. This is an extended number of nearly ten minutesí duration, but the artistry is such that it justifies this length. The excellent recorded sound makes a special contribution in this regard; BISís SACD technology at its best.
 
In this fine cantata there is also a top class recent recording directed by Philippe Herreweghe, in which the great duet for tenor and bass, Ein unbegreiflich Licht, is particularly well done; even more clearly articulated than here. However, both performances are splendid, and the violins of Bach Collegium Japan have seldom been heard to better effect.
 
With the highest presentation standards and an informative and well organised booklet, this is another top quality issue in Suzukiís cantata series for BIS.
 
Terry Barfoot
 

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