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Georg BÖHM (1661-1733)
Mein Freund ist mein - cantata for soprano, alto, tenor and bass [18:54]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Der Herr denket an uns - cantata for soprano, alto, tenor and bass BWV 196 [11:04]
Quodlibet: Was seind das vor grosser Schlösser BWV 524 with additions by Leonardo Garciá Alarcon [12:01]
Johann Christoph BACH (1642-1703)
Meine Freundin, du bist schön - cantata for soprano, alto, tenor and bass (1679) [26:05]
Mariana Flores (soprano), Paulin Büngden and Steve Dugardin (countertenors), Fernando Guimarães (tenor) and Christain Immler and Philippe Favette (basses)
Clematis/Leonardo Garciá Alarcon
rec. March and November 2011, Beaufays, église Saint-Jean l’Évangéliste
Texts and translations included
RICERCAR RIC 323 [68:05]

Experience Classicsonline

Subtitled Music for Weddings and Other Festivities this disc brings together music largely influenced by the Song of Songs, which was extremely popular amongst Catholic and Lutheran composers of the time. The first to submit to its erotic lure, programmatically at any rate, is Georg Böhm (1661-1733), a generation older than J.S. Bach. Bach however knew and admired Böhm and worked with him in Lüneburg, where the older man was resident organist. They were to remain in contact for the rest of Böhm’s life. Mein Freund ist mein is a cantata for soprano, alto, tenor and bass, string accompaniment and bass continuo.
The French would call this work a ‘concert spiritual’ as much as a cantata, with some incessantly repeated ecstatic textual repetitions underpinned and grounded by strong counterpoint. Motifs recur throughout in a highly impressive organisational way, ensuring thematic binding and unity. Soprano Mariana Flores sings her divisions with liquid authority over the sensitive organ’s warm registrations. Meanwhile the string counterpoint to the alto aria is well characterised by the small ensemble of Clematis (nice name for a group). The bass aria is perkier with correspondingly perkier organ playing and by now the music is so closely intertwined that the final chorus makes a most impressive impression - amplitude coupled with breadth.
Johann Christoph Bach was JS’s first cousin once removed and a distinguished organist, Johann Sebastian referred to his cousin as ‘a profound composer’ and often performed his works. Meine Freundin, du bist schön is a cantata for soprano, alto, tenor and bass, written in all probability for his own marriage in 1679. It has at its heart a long and involved chaconne, here used as a kind of erotic promenade, in which the soprano thinks passionate thoughts: the dissonances serve only to exaggerate the latent - not so latent, let’s be honest - sexiness of the text (‘he feedeth among the roses, and he lingers also with me.’). This celebratory work is a richly decorative and engaging one, revealing JC to be a forward looking composer, and one with impeccable technical control.
J.S. Bach’s Der Herr denket an uns is a wedding cantata. It is a brief work that calls for four solo singers but its truncation has led to speculation that what has survived is a torso. Certainly, it seems to lack a second part, and there’s no concluding chorale. The verses from Psalm 115 are set in successive verses, and Bach opens with an instrumental sinfonia adding da capo arias, grounded in the new style Italian opera not concerts spirituels such as attracted Böhm. The Quodlibet Was seind das vor grosser Schlösser BWV524 is a prankish affair. Following the initial noble opening the Bach clan would sing choruses of popular songs and often facetious ones crammed in this case with proverbs and chaff. This quodlibet lacks a beginning and an end, which leaves the middle. This performance tries to reproduce the air of silliness and collective improvisation, whilst also maintaining the quodlibet’s form. Into the void of the missing finale steps conductor Leonardo Garciá Alarcon. He filches the last of the Goldberg Variations and bungs it in. Yes, it too is a quodlibet. Good fun is ensured, unless you’re of the stuffy disposish.
Full texts and translations are included. Recording quality is first class.
Jonathan Woolf  

Masterwork Index: Bach cantata 196

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