Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
O ewiges Reuer, o Ursprung der Liebe
, Cantata BWV34 (c.1746)
Erhöhtes Fleisch und Blut
, Cantata BWV173 (1724) [13:39]
, Cantata BWV184 (1724) [20:33]
Gelobet sei der Herr, mein Gott
, Cantata BWV129 (1726) [19:12]
Gerlinde Sämann (soprano), Petra Nostaiova (alto), Christoph Genz
(tenor), Jan Van der Crabben (bass)
La Petite Bande/Sigiswald Kuijken
rec. 1-3 June 2012, Predikherenkerk, Leuven, Belgium
ACCENT ACC 25316
Recordings of the Bach cantatas come in all shapes
and sizes, and Sigiswald Kuijken has established his position as a leading
artist in this repertoire. He has preferred to group the works by reference
to the church’s year, and to perform them with a smaller instrumental
ensemble and a strict ‘one voice to a part’ allocation.
This issue is Volume 16 in Kuijken’s series, and the chosen liturgical
reference is Pentecost. In the ensemble movements there is drama in
abundance, which with this approach is delivered with clear textures
and plenty of attack and dancing rhythms. Not everyone will care for
the lack of ensemble voices beyond the chosen four-part texture, but
these artists believe in what they are doing and their performances
reflect that. For example, the opening chorus of BWV34 is particularly
lively, the only caveat being whether the balancing of voices and instruments
somewhat favours the latter.
In the well-produced accompanying booklet Kuijken justifies his approach
with scholarship which inevitably includes a degree of interpretation;
but it is carefully thought through and eloquently articulated. If the
number of voices is made so important, what then of the types of voice?
Surely we should have boys rather than women. That point made, there
are few problems with these performers, and the singers acquit themselves
with distinction. In terms of which approaches work best, Bach remains
the most indestructible of composers, and in that sense each new or
revisited performance is to be welcomed.
In arias too Kuijken’s chosen tempi always feel right, while the
relationship between solo voices and obbligato instruments is articulated
to maximum effect.
Three of these Leipzig cantatas are re-workings of secular cantatas
from the Köthen years, an approach that was not at all unusual.
The newly composed BWV129 is the exception, though the style remains
The acoustic of the Predikherenkerk at Leuven brings a warmly atmospheric
sound to the excellent recordings, which are relatively close but never
The issue, then, surrounds the number of singers used in the ripieno
movements. Not all artists and scholars agree with Kuijken about this,
and it is true that a wider variety of vocal music can enrich the listener’s
experience. If a smaller ensemble is the option you prefer, these performances
would be hard to better.
Masterwork Index: Bach