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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1759)
Gloria in Excelsis Deo
Cantata: Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele, BWV 69 [19:05]*
Cantata: Freue dich, erlöste Schar, BWV 30 [34:17]*
Cantata: Gloria in excelsis Deo, BWV 191 [14:19]*
Mass in B minor: Dona nobis pacem BWV 232 [3:38]
Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
[no timings given, above times from BIS SACD 2031* and BIS SACD 1701/2]
rec.* Kobe Shoin Women's University Chapel, Kobe, Japan, 23 February 2013
Sound Format LPCM Stereo, LPCM 5.0 Surround; Picture Format 16:9, 1080i; All Regions: Subtitles English & Japanese, plus German/Latin for performances: Booklet English only
Extra: interviews with performers, technicians and others involved
Reviewed in surround
BIS BIS2201 Blu-ray [93:00]

This disc is essentially Volume 55 of the Bach Sacred Cantata series with an extra chorus and added video. At least two reviews are elsewhere on the Music Web International site. The addition of 25 minutes or so of interviews with the soloists, chorus members, players, engineers and Suzuki himself make this celebratory issue fascinating to watch and hear. A secondary bonus is the presence of subtitles during the four performances, making it far easier to stay with Bach's religious message. The air of dedication hanging over all the activity is actually quite inspiring, and rightly so, for this series is a landmark in recording history, up there with the Solti Ring. Not only has a complete set of the sacred cantatas been committed to disc but they are in period style, in SACD surround and they are superbly well documented. Reviewing this has cost me money because I realised that I could no longer resist buying the recently released, complete remastered set on BIS SACD9055, not only for the missing few dozen cantatas I gained, but also for the old CD-only issues being newly minted as SACD surround. And, I might add, for the useful indexes to help navigation around the 55 discs!

The performances of the three cantatas on this Blu-ray are of course superb; from the most prominent soloists to the back desk of the violins, all are now seasoned performers, and it shows. Each cantata appears to be a single performance with only the audio and video team and the microphones as audience. The singers move smoothly out of their place in the chorus to the front to sing their solos and then walk back into place. It is all impressively smooth and unfussy. The addition of the great Dona Nobis Pacem chorus from the B minor Mass acts as a wholly appropriate closing tribute. The surround sound, unusually not in DTS Master Audio but LPCM Surround 5.0, is excellent as always. Even those who have purchased the final volume of the series should obtain this too. You might even be tempted to raise a glass to the series as you watch the performers and engineers do just that on your screen.

I should note that translator and note-writer Andrew Barnett's guiding hand seems to be missing from this set because there are no significant sleeve notes and the English subtitles have rather too many typos.

Dave Billinge



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