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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Solo Cantatas
Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen! BWV 51 [17:38]
Non sa che sia dolore BWV 209 [23:28]
O holder Tag, erwünschte Zeit BWV 210 [35:21]
Elizabeth Futral (soprano)
Washington Bach Consort/J. Reilly Lewis
No recording dates and venues given.
Sung texts and English translations enclosed
LYRICHORD LEMS8069 [76:44]
Experience Classicsonline

We don’t know for certain when these three sonatas were written, nor do we know the exact purpose. According to Bach’s handwritten notation on the title page of cantata BWV 51, it was written for the 15th Sunday after Trinity, but the text has nothing in common with the readings on that day. There is also a further notation that says it’s suitable ‘at any time’. It is believed to have been written in September 1730.

BWV 208 is a secular cantata and one of only two by his hand to an Italian text. Presumably it was composed between 1729 and 1734 but it is not known for what occasion and some scholars even question the authenticity.

BWV 210 is one of only two surviving wedding cantatas. It is supposed to have been written in the early 1740s.

All three works demand a virtuoso soprano with easy coloratura. In BWV 51 she is partnered by a solo trumpeter with expertise in florid playing. Josh Cohen fulfils all our expectations on this disc. In BWV 209 he is replaced by the eminent flautist Colin St. Martin, who is joined by Gonzalo Xavier Ruiz’ oboe d’amore in BWV 210 – an instrument designated for expressing love.

The Washington Bach Consort, playing on period instruments, under their founder and director J. Reilly Lewis, are an excellent ensemble and they are responsive to dance rhythms that Bach employ ever so often in his music. The second aria of BWV 209 dances in an almost rural manner (tr. 10), and the conclusion of BWV 210 (tr. 20) is close to big band swing.

Elizabeth Futral is certainly a versatile singer, whose repertoire embraces music from baroque to the present day. She was for instance Stella in the world premiere of André Previn’s opera A Streetcar Named Desire and she is a much sought-after Lucia di Lammermoor. She has a wide range of expression and in BWV 51 she nicely contrasts the virtuoso outer movements with an inward and almost otherworldly – seemingly at some distance – reading of the recitative (tr. 2), while she initially adopts a thinner tone – Emma Kirkby-like – in the chorale (tr. 4). She blends well with the flute in BWV 209 and is overtly dramatic in the opening recitative of BWV 210 (tr. 11). Technically she is superb and I have nothing but praise for her readings. I have long admired Edith Mathis in BWV 209 (Archiv), which she recorded with the Berlin Chamber Orchestra under Peter Schreier. The modern instruments of the Berlin orchestra lend the music a softer edge that goes well with Mathis’ slightly warmer tone. But Elizabeth Futral’s readings are excellent and the recorded sound clean and atmospheric – though nowhere on the jewel-box or in the booklet was I able to find where it was made, and when.

That is a minor blemish and at least producer and engineer are credited on the back cover. The disc would be a worthy addition to any collection of Bach’s vocal music.

Göran Forsling


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