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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
The Voice of Bach
Sinfonia in E minor (Cantata BWV 4, Christ lag in Todesbanden)
Aria: Erbarme dich, mein Gott (St Matthew Passion, BWV 244)
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**
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**
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]
(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
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’.
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
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.
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