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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
The Voice of Bach

Sinfonia in E minor (Cantata BWV 4, Christ lag in Todesbanden) [1:20]
Aria: Erbarme dich, mein Gott (St Matthew Passion, BWV 244) [6:13]
Aria (Duet): Wir eilen mit schwachen, doch emsigen Schritten (Cantata BWV 78 Jesu der du meine Seele)* [4:59]
Motet: O Jesu Christ, mein’s  Lebens Licht, BWV 118b** [8:28]
Sinfonia in F minor (Cantata BWV 12, Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen) [2:06]
Aria: Es ist Vollbracht (St John Passion , BWV 245) [5:05]
Aria (Duet): Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn (Cantata BWV 23, Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn) * [7:06]
Chorale: Vor deinen Thron tret’ ich hiermit, BWV 668** [4:08]
Aria: Schliesse, mein Herze, dies selige Wunder (Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248) [5:08]
Sinfonia in C minor (Cantata BWV 21, Ich hatte viel Beikümmernis) [2:28]
Aria: Bereite dich, Zion (Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248) [5:07]
Daniel Taylor (counter-tenor, conductor); *Agnes Zsigovics (soprano); Theatre of Early Music; **Choir of the Theatre of Early Music
rec. 6-11 August 2007, MultiMedia Room, Schulich School of Music, McGill University, Montreal
German texts; English, French translations included
SONY BMG 88697290312 [44:20]


Experience Classicsonline

The Canadian counter-tenor, Daniel Taylor, has established a strong reputation, not least as a singer of Bach. He has, for instance, made some fine contributions to the Monteverdi Choir’s Bach Cantata Pilgrimage series (see reviews). However, here instead of simply giving us a recital of arias he goes one step better and offers a thoughtfully constructed programme in which arias are mingled with short orchestral movements from three of the cantatas as well as a couple of choral offerings. To do this Taylor enlists the small choir and instrumental ensemble of the Theatre of Early Music, a group which he founded in his native Canada and of which he is Artistic Director.

A glance at the table of contents shows that several of the plum alto arias in Bach’s output are included. Taylor is on fine form in these pieces, offering beautiful singing. His voice is clear and evenly produced. In the wonderful ‘Erbarme dich, mein Gott’ he adopts a nice flowing tempo that ensures there’s no suggestion of the lachrymose. His tone is expressive but never fulsome and every note is placed right in the centre. He’s just as successful in the other arias, not least in a very fine performance of ‘Es ist Vollbracht’, where the singing is cool and poised but not at all detached. Praise too for the moving gamba obbligato contribution of Richard Campbell in this aria.

I liked very much the two duets in which Taylor is joined by Agnes Zsigovics. Their voices blend exceptionally well. Their bright, eager singing in the sprightly ‘Wir eilen mit schwachen, doch emsigen Schritten’ is a delight but they’re just as good at conveying the deeper emotions of ‘Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn’.   

The instrumental playing is of a very high order throughout the recital. I’ve already mentioned the fine obbligato in ‘Es ist Vollbracht’. Just as fine is the contribution of the pair of plaintive intertwining oboes in ‘Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn’ and the eloquent violin playing that ravishes the ear in ‘Erbarme dich’. The small ensemble blends very well and offers beautifully shaped performances of the three sinfonias, especially the poignant sinfonia from BWV 21.

The choral singing is also good in its own terms but I was a touch disappointed by ‘O Jesu Christ, mein’s Lebens Licht’. This is a lovely piece and technically the singing is very beautiful but I wondered if, perhaps, it wasn’t a little too self-consciously beautiful and smooth. I missed the touch of earthiness and the incisiveness that, in their different ways, conductors such as Sir John Eliot Gardiner and Fritz Werner bring to such music. This is even more true in the performance of ‘Vor deinen Thron tret’ ich hiermit’. Yes, beauty is an important constituent of Bach’s music but I think that perhaps Taylor has just swung the balance over a little too far in these pieces.

However, such criticism must be kept in perspective. This is a beautifully produced and skilfully executed programme which confirms that Daniel Taylor is a Bach interpreter of discernment and excellent taste.

John Quinn



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