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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren; Motet BWV225 (Aria No.2 Wie sich ein Vater erbarmet) and Cantata BWV28 [8:49]
Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig (Chorale Prelude BWV644) [2:26]: Fragment from Cantata BWV 26 [1:49]
Komm, o Tod, du Schlafes Bruder, aria fragment and chorale from Cantata BWV56 [6:17]
Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, BWV12 [4:40]
Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, arrangement of Chorale Prelude BWV645 [2:59]
Jesu, neine Freude, Motet BWV227 and Chorale Prelude BWV610 [11:37]
In dir ist Feude, Chorale Prelude BWV615 and Giovanni Giacomo GASTOLDI (c.1553-1609) An hellen Tagen [4:37]
Menuett from Anna Magdalena Bach’s Notebook arr. Peter Bauer [3:40]
Arvo PÄRT (b.1935)
Fratres [7:43]
Guillaume DUFAY (1397-1474)
Ecclesiae militantis; Motet (1431) [4:29]
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
When I am laid in Earth - Dido and Aeneas [2:49]
Johann WALTER (1496-1570)
Vivat Carolus (instrumental) [1:46]
Dieterich BUXTEHUDE (1637-1707)
Herr, wenn ich nur dich hab, BuxWV38 (instrumental) [2:46]
John TAVENER (1944-2013)
The Lamb [4:39]
Calmus Ensemble Leipzig/Lautten Compagney Berlin
rec. February 2013, Klosterkirche St Pauli, and Archäologisches Landesmuseum Brandenburg an der Havel
CARUS 83.381 [71:19]

‘Chorales of Johann Sebastian Bach, in both traditional and new and unusual arrangements, enter into a dialog with other works ranging from the early modern period to the twentieth century’. Thus runs the back cover’s explanation for this rather strange offering from Carus, a label that does occasionally go off the radar in this way from time to time, though its primary releases are otherwise thoroughly admirable.
To further the intention it has taken one of the best baroque performance instrumental ensembles you can find anywhere, the Lautten Compagney, and teamed them with the Calmus Ensemble, the vocal group sporting soprano, counter-tenor, tenor, baritone and bass. This is, as documentation elsewhere rather melodramatically puts it, a conjunction that represents a ‘summit meeting’ between the two to promote a ‘cupola of sound’. Best, at this point, to get to grips with what this all really means.
The spine of the recital is the Bachian Chorale. Their presentation varies. In the case of the chorale to BWV225 it’s hummed by the Calmus Ensemble in an organ evocation and it contrasts with the instrumental passages. Wie sich ein Vater, erbarmet is unaccompanied. Cantatas are juxtaposed in the programme. The Chorale Prelude BWV644 is followed immediately by a fragment from Cantata BWV26, whilst the motet Jesu, meine Freude fuses with the Chorale Prelude BWV610. Occasionally in all these goings-on, there’s the whiff of the Swingle Singers - briefly, but worryingly, in the Chorale Prelude BWV644. Whether the marimba and humming of Weinen, Klagenm, Sorgfen, Zagen, BWV12 will be to your taste rather depends on your tolerance, indulgence or indeed acceptance levels. If you do enjoy hearing a saxophone, humming and funereal percussive taps in When I Am Laid in Earth is another question I can safely leave to you.
That said, I rather liked the Buxtehude instrumental and its juxtaposition of voice and sax is quite effective. In any case Herr, wenn ich nur dich hab is a beautiful piece of music and the viola da gamba playing - back to seriousness - is splendid. Elsewhere there are shivery bells in Gute Nacht, o Wesen from BWV227 - the height of kitsch, I’d say - along with flute and soprano contributions. Arvo Pärt’s evergreen Fratres is arranged for five voices and five instruments by Wolfgang Katschner and I do like the way in which the high voices replicate the flute and saxophone. That works ok. Alas, Wachet auf is a real karaoke job for Swingle Singers, sax and flute. Time for some head clearing at this point. I’m glad John Tavener’s The Lamb was broadly respected, in that respect.
I did stay for the ‘bonus’ - but why so given it’s a 71 minute disc? - which is a Minuet from Anna Magdalena Bach’s Notebook arranged by Peter Bauer. This is real Kaftan-and-Campari music, complete with wall-mounted Aztec carvings. Not my thing.
Jonathan Woolf