Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Komm, Jesu, komm, BWV229 [8:11]
Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir, BWV 228 [7:57]
Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf, BWV 226 [7:10]
Jesu, meine Freude, BWV 227 [20:30]
Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden, BWV 230 [5:39]
O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht, BWV118 [4:45]
Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, BWV 225 [11:46]
Norwegian Soloists’ Choir
Ensemble Allegria/Grete Pedersen
rec. 2015-17, Ris Kirke, Oslo, Norway. DSD
German texts and English translations included
BIS BIS-2251 SACD [67:39]
The Norwegian Soloists’ Choir was founded in 1950 by the distinguished composer and choral conductor, Knut Nystedt who led the ensemble for no less than forty years. I first encountered the choir on a very fine disc that combined Nystedt’s music with that of Bach (review). Then, as now, they were conducted by Nystedt’s successor, Grete Pedersen and Ensemble Allegria also took part. That disc included BWV118 and BWV227; the same recordings have been recycled here and are joined by new recordings of the other five motets.
I admired very much those two 2015 recordings and have little to add to my praise of them in the earlier review. O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht is given with suitable solemnity and the excellent performance of Jesu, meine Freude is noteworthy not just for the technical accomplishment of the singers but also for the way in which they put across the words.
Komm, Jesu, komm was composed in 1730 for the funeral of the widow of Johann Schelle who had been, until his death in 1701, one of Bach’s predecessors as Kantor of the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. Bach sets some verses, written decades earlier, by a local poet, Paul Thymich and it’s remarkable how in a fairly compressed composition Bach responds to each different thought in the text with suitable and varied music, yet all within an organic whole, The Norwegian Soloists’ performance is superb, not least for the clarity that is achieved.
In Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf the opening chorus is made to dance delightfully. Once again, the part writing comes over with terrific clarity. Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden is light and joyful while Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied is a fitting conclusion to the programme. This last work gets off to a buoyant, springing start and in the central aria/chorale the use of expert individual voices reminds us – as we heard also in parts of BWV227 - that this is a choir comprised of soloists.
Throughout these performances the choir benefits from splendid support from Ensemble Allegria. If it’s not a contradiction in terms to say so, their playing is at one and the same time unobtrusive yet present. Grete Pedersen shapes Bach’s often intricate music with great understanding and musicality. The result is a set of stylish and very satisfying performances.
The sound on this SACD is up to the usual very high standards of the label. Although the sessions were quite widely spaced apart and different engineers were used for each of the three sessions the recordings seem to me to achieve excellent consistency.
I’ve greatly enjoyed this excellent set of performances and I’m delighted to add them to my Bach collection.