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Sebastian BACH (1685–1739) Erschallet, ihr Lieder, BWV 172 (1714) [20:29] Himmelskönig, sei willkommen, BWV 182 (1714) [28.33] Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis, BWV 21 (1714) [38:55]
(soprano); Michael Chance (counter-tenor); Charles Daniels
(tenor); Peter Harvey (bass); The Purcell
rec. 22-24 May 2007, St. Jude on the Hill, Hampstead
2 CDs for the price of 1 CHANDOS
CHAN0752(2) [49.04 + 38.55]
is the third volume in the Chandos survey of Bach’s early
cantatas (see review of Weimar vol. I). As with previous
issues these cantatas are sung one voice to a part by a
The soloists sing the chorales and choruses as well – the
complete single-voice approach. In principle I welcome
this mode of performance, and have on my library shelves
some superb examples of Bach performed by single voices.
The four singers in this case are accompanied by an ensemble
of just twelve instrumentalists. And, frankly, it is the
instrumental playing which is the best thing on the disc.
is some lovely singing here, particularly in the solo movements.
But the singers are all very mature, with highly developed
personalities and both Kirkby and Chance use a number of
vocal tricks to negotiate the tricky vocal lines. Chance
has a tendency to shade in and out of individual notes
and Kirkby’s voice does not respond as flexibly in the
upper ranges as it once did. This would not matter if we
were just talking about solo movements as all four soloists
still have a vast amount of experience and skill to give
and their solo contributions are well worth listening to. In
the choruses however, the singers are disappointing. They
just don’t gel as a vocal entity and you long to hear the
choruses sung by singers with a greater sense of line and
a slightly less determined vocal identity.
are just three cantatas on the discs and they make a fascinating
trio. Erschallet, ihr Lieder uses drums and three
trumpets to resounding effect to illustrate the opening
words ‘Resound, ye songs, ring out, ye strings’. The cantata
has a tricky textual history as Bach performed it a number
of times, each with variants on the particular pitch standard
used. The Purcell Quartet use the lower conservative key,
but even so Kirkby sounds a little taxed at the very top
of her range. The cantata is a rather jubilant work, veering
towards ecstatic joy at the prospect of heavenly eternity.
is followed by a cantata which may be a re-working of an
even earlier one. Himmelskönig, sei willkommen seems
to have existed originally in a version for four voices
plus trio sonata accompaniment. The additional parts were
added later. It would have been interesting to hear the
work in its original state and there would have been room
on the disc. As it is we hear it in the state in which
Bach performed it in 1714. It is similar in tone to the
previous cantata, but instead of trumpets Bach gives us
a more intimate heavenly conversation.
final cantata of the set, Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis also
has textual problems as Bach re-used a separate work for
the grand finale - with trumpets and drums. As that work
originally had a five-part string texture, Bach had to
make some hasty adaptations. Unusually for him, the piece
never seems to have reached a definitive state. It is performed
on this disc in the form in which it was given in 1714.
The cantata is far more monumental than the previous two,
with despair dominating the first half. The second opens
with the Soul still in despair. Gradually hope dawns in
the light of Jesus. Unlike the opening cantata on the disc,
Bach holds back the trumpets and drums until the last glorious
advantage of this particular group of cantatas is that
we can hear three of Bach’s works dating from the same
period in 1714. The CD booklet contains an informative
article giving a good background to the works, along with
texts and translations. At 88 minutes the set has a rather
short playing time. You can’t help wishing that they’d
managed to fit another cantata onto the discs.
is much to enjoy here including fine instrumental playing
and, thanks to the small-scale forces of the Purcell Quartet,
some splendidly transparent textures. Whilst this set is
certainly recommendable for anyone interested in Bach’s
early cantatas, the solo singing is not quite up to the
high standards set by the instrumental contribution.
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