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Selig ist der Mann, der die Anfechtung erduldet,
BWV 57 (1725) [20:59]
Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn, BWV 152 (1714) [16:40]
Ich geh und suche mit Verlangen, BWV 49 (1726) [22:56]
(bass-baritone), Dorothea Röschmann (soprano)
Members of the RIAS Kammerchor
Berliner Barock Solisten/Rainer Kussmaul.
rec. Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, May and June 2007. DDD
477 6591 [61:00]
follow-up to Thomas Quasthoff's superb disc of Bach
cantatas for bass furthers his claim to the title of today's
finest male Bach singer.
are two major points of difference between that earlier disc
and this one. Firstly, and more obviously from the album's
title, these cantatas are built around dialogue between bass
baritone and soprano. Secondly, and related to the first distinction,
all three cantatas – though in the case of BWV 152 only the
final duet – cast Quasthoff in the role of Jesus, requiring
more character acting and less Lieder-singer introspection
than the three cantatas that made up the programme on his earlier
album. In fact, it is not much of an overstatement to describe
these cantatas as miniature operas, comprising loving conversation
between the Saviour and the soul He has ransomed. Nowhere
is this more apparent than in BWV 49, which depicts Christ
as the bridegroom and the ransomed soul as His bride.
it turns out, Quasthoff’s acting is almost as good as his singing. His
remarkably secure voice remains full and warm, never becoming
declamatory even as he injects exuberance into his delivery. Allied
to this quality is his keen sensitivity to text. There is
a hushed poignancy to Quasthoff's singing in the first aria
of BWV 57, as if in saying “Blessed is the man that endureth
temptation”, Jesus is acknowledging how difficult that endurance
can be. By contrast, the energy and Handelian triumph of the
second bass aria in BWV 57 is beautifully and joyfully communicated. He
is warmly encouraging in the exhortatory first aria of BWV
152 and the interplay between his voice and the solo oboe is
beautiful. In BWV 49, his cooing first aria and tender recitatives
depict a human and loving Christ.
course, these being dialogue cantatas, the quality of Quasthoff’s
singing alone would not justify a recommendation. Fortunately
he has an excellent partner in Dorothea Röschmann. She brings
a similar sensitivity to the text, brightening the mood of
BWV 152 with her solo aria and singing with wonderfully breathy
expression in her solo aria in BWV 57. Her voice rings with
an attractive vibrato and even though there is quite a contrast
between the timbre of her head voice and chest voice, she uses
this contrast to expressive ends.
duets and conversational recitatives are beautifully choreographed. Only
in the duet that concludes BWV 49 did I feel unsatisfied. This
cantata is as glorious a celebration of conjugal love as you
will hear, but in this performance as a whole, an in the final
duet in particular, both singers and the musicians supporting
them seem too cool. Bach’s text can handle a more overtly
erotic treatment, and a bit more breathlessness in the soprano
aria and exuberance in the final duet would have made a very
good performance even better.
the disc, the contribution of the Berliner Barock Solisten
is lovely and supportive of the voices. The band never draws
attention to itself while the singers have centre stage, but
are moments of beauty that are worth noting. The overture
to BWV 152, with wonderful interplay between solo oboe and
recorder, is nicely pointed and throughout the programme organist
Raphael Alpermann offers a continuo that is warm but unobtrusive
in arias and recitatives. He shines in the sinfonia that opens
BWV 49 – this will be familiar to many listeners as the third
movement of the concerto for keyboard BWV 1053 – and in the
ornamental writing that weaves around the voices in that cantata’s
final duet. Thirteen voices from of the RIAS Kammerchor contribute
a bright and perfectly blended chorale to conclude BWV 57,
but are not heard from again.
recorded sound is immediate and finely detailed, though there
often seems to be more air around Röschmann’s voice than Quasthoff’s,
for example in the duet that concludes BWV 152. Dorothea Schroder's
fine liner-notes complete a very attractive issue.
if you have been collecting any of the excellent cycles of
Bach cantatas being compiled by the likes of Gardiner, Suzuki and Kuijken,
this disc is well worth having.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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