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Cantatas for Soprano


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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Secular Cantatas Volume 9
Geschwinde, ihr wirbelnden Winde BWV201 [47.32]
Auf, schmetternde Töne der muntern Trompeten BWV207a [32.30]
Joanne Lunn (soprano), Robin Blaze (counter-tenor), Nicholas Phan (tenor), Katsuhiko Nakashima (tenor) (BWV201), Christian Immler (baritone) (BWV201), Dominik Wörner (bass)
Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
rec. Kobe Shoin Women's University Chapel, Japan, 2016
Reviewed in surround
BIS BIS2311 SACD [80.53]

Suzuki and his Bach Collegium continue to fill all the gaps left in their recordings of Bach's extant cantatas. When one considers how many they have now recorded against the scholars' belief that we are probably missing at least a further one hundred or more, because they have been lost or destroyed in the last three centuries, this series must be rated one of the wonders of the recording world. It is still more remarkable that everything is now available on SACD in surround sound. It is somewhat less remarkable that, unless my archive of reviews is incomplete, this is the very first of them I have received for review!

BWV201 is an enormous piece lasting over three-quarters of an hour. Unusually for this most businesslike of composers it appears to have been written because he wanted to compose it and not because he was ordered or commissioned to do so. Given Bach's astonishing work rate it is quite surprising that any such composition exists, that he found time to do it. It is, as the extensive notes describe, an opulent work scored for six soloists, trumpets, timpani, flutes, oboes, strings and continuo. He may well have felt able to write such an indulgent piece because of his recently gained leadership of the Leipzig Collegium Musicum, a group founded by his fellow luminary Telemann. The plot derives from Ovid's Metamorphoses and describes a musical competition between Pan and Apollo. It may well be that Bach was making a point about the importance of music. For him this was a far from trivial point, music being not only his living but a tenet of his cultural philosophy as well as a direct pathway to religious truth. The score is packed with imaginative passages describing the landscape, the characters and the events of the preposterous mythological scenario. It is, needless to say, utterly superb music.

BWV207a is a parody piece, in that this celebratory cantata for the name day of the Elector of Saxony and King of Poland Augustus III, is a reworking of the music of BWV207 but with a new text. Not only that but the score already includes a subsidiary reworking of parts of the Brandenburg Concerto No.1. Being celebratory it, like the companion piece on this disc, is indulgently scored with trumpets and timpani in addition to the usual woodwind and strings. A grand and exciting sound it all makes too. Thirty minutes of the most glorious music.

It is almost superfluous to mention that the performers are excellent, the notes are detailed and scholarly and the recording is spectacular in its clarity and spaciousness but still a realistic sound picture of the recording space.

Dave Billinge



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