Wilhelm Friedemann BACH (1710-1784)
Lasset uns ablegan die Werke der Finsternis [29.49]
Es ist eine Stimme eines Predigers in der Wuste [23.52]
Dies ist der Tag [32.35]
Erzittert und fallet [26.41]
Barbara Schlick (soprano), Claudia Schubert (alto), Wilfried Jochens (tenor), Stephan Schreckenberger (bass)
Rheinische Kantorei, Das Kleine Konzert/Hermann Max
rec. 15-22 April 1991, Wuppertal-Barmen, Immanuelskirche
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94256 [53.56 + 59.40]
An interesting two-disc set of sacred cantatas by J. S. Bach’s eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. W.F.E. was a composer of genuine talent and flair, if rather lacking the genius and inspiration that made his father arguably the very greatest of Masters.
The first disc opens with Lasset uns ablegan die Werke der Finsternis (“Let us cast off the works of darkness”), written in 1749 for the first Sunday of Advent. The first thing one notices is that both the writing and the performances are competent rather than exceptional. The solo arias are bland and often poorly enunciated, and the da capo arias lack variety on their return. This could be greatly enhanced, not just through melodic decoration but also through voicing and relative prominence of various lines.
The second work on the disc, Es ist eine Stimme eines Predigers in der Wuste (“the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness”, written for St John’s Day) opens with a virtuosic chorus. Unfortunately the agility required is slightly beyond the capability of the Rheinische Kantorei and this impressive work is thus rather let down.
Dies ist der Tag (“This is the Day”, for Pentecost) commences the second disc with an extended three-movement Sinfonia. This is rather long-winded, although the performance from the Das Kleine Konzert under Hermann Max is well-shaped. One wonders, however, whether the instrumentation/doubling could have been altered - depending on the amount of flexibility allowed by the composer’s level of instructions - to provide a greater variety of colour. The arias in this work, like the Sinfonia, seem rather overly drawn-out - too symmetrical and literal for my personal taste.
The final work in the set is the cantata for Easter Sunday Erzittert und fallet (“tremble and fall”). Its complex opening chorus (here well-performed) owes much to J. S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, although the music of the ensuing arias doesn’t always reflect the text especially well, and I found too many stock musical gestures in the recitatives.
The slightly odd acoustic of the Immanuelskirche doesn’t particularly help present these performances in the best of light, which is a little disappointing. The disc itself is reasonably well-produced, with good notes, although I found it odd that there was nothing whatsoever about the performers; and although it was very good to have the libretto translations, their layout rather leaves something to be desired – lines to do not always match but that’s just a minor quibble.
On the whole, though, not a bad disc – interesting music, which will be entirely new to most listeners, and reasonably convincing performances.
  Em Marshall-Luck
Interesting music, entirely new to most listeners, and reasonably convincing performances.