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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme BWV 140 [28:52]
Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott BWV 80 [27:07]
Elly Ameling (sopranoi); Linda Finnie (contralto) (BWV 80); Aldo Baldin (tenor); Samuel Ramey (bass)
London Voices
English Chamber Orchestra/Raymond Leppard
rec. February, 1981, London. ADD
DECCA MUSIC PRESTO CD 422490-2 [56:15]

These are two favourite cantatas given spirited and well sprung recordings. Although made thirty-four years ago and largely innocent of period awareness, there is nothing lethargic or glutinous about the performance style. These are grand cantatas and the London Voices, chorus-master Terry Edwards, make a glorious noise. It martial fervour is especially suited to the music, and even if the undisclosed recording location is slightly cavernous, that suits the elevated approach.

The attack of Aldo Baldin’s virile tenor in the first recitative of BWV 140 matches the choir in ardour, but the following duet, in which the silvery-voiced soprano of Elly Ameling and the smooth bass of Samuel Ramey interweave so delightfully, establishes a complete change of mood to lyrical rapture – as befits a cantata which exploits the time-honoured extended nuptial metaphor of the Souls as Bride and Christ as Groom. They are accompanied by some beautiful, soaring violin-playing from Jos Luis Garcia, but all the instrumental soloists here are first rate. They include Charles Tunnell (cello), Adrian Beers (double bass), Graham Sheen (bassoon) and Anthony Halstead (organ). The famous chorale for the tenors of the choir is especially warmly and strongly sung.

BWV 80 allows Ramey to demonstrate why he was long the world’s premier coloratura basso cantabile and once again he blends so elegantly with Ameling. Linda Finnie, wrongly credited in the notes with singing in “Wachet auf” when in fact she sings with Baldin in the penultimate duet of “Ein feste Burg”, is particularly noteworthy in the strength of her brief contribution. The cantata concludes with one of those splendid, massively assured hymnic chorales so typical of the composer.

All in all, a superb recording which hardly betrays its age and certainly does honour to the music.

Ralph Moore



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