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  BIS -
  Bach: Cantatas Vol. 42 - Suzuki
  Bach: Cantatas "Alles nur nach Gottes Willen" BWV72, "Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen" (Concerto in Dialogo) BWV32, "Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen" BWV13, "Herr Gott, dich loben wir" BWV16

Rachel Nicholls (soprano)
Robin Blaze (counter-tenor)
Gerd Türk (tenor)
Peter Kooij (bass)
Bach Collegium Japan
Masaaki Suzuki (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Vocal
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Reviews: 1

Review by gavindixon April 7, 2009 (7 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Masaaki Suzuki’s Bach cantata cycle is entering home straits. Volume 42 focuses on the cantatas of January 1726, not the cheeriest month of the liturgical calendar, and even the New Year cantata ‘Herr Gott, dich loben wir’ BWV 16 is a relatively low key affair. Suzuki sensibly presents the works out of sequence, front loading the disc with the more lively choral opener to the cantata ‘Alles nur nach Gottes Willen’ BWV 72. But on the whole these are solo cantatas, and this snapshot month of Bach’s creative output demonstrates the immense variety of musical contexts he creates for the solo voice with his orchestral accompaniments.

The combination of European soloists and a Japanese ensemble has become a hallmark of Suzuki’s approach, but it continues to throw up culture clashes, some surprising, some less so. Many of the solo arias with obligato accompaniment on the disc suffer from excesses of dynamics and articulation on the part of the singer and a corresponding lack of these extremes from the instrumental soloist. The opening aria of the cantata ‘Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen’ BWV 32, for example, sets the soprano, Rachel Nicholls, in duet with the oboist Masamitsu San’nomiya. The plaintive text elicits emotive swoops between notes and leaned-on ornaments from the soprano, but the oboe plays it straight, the cadential ornaments sounding particularly restrained. The same is true of ‘Mit allem, was ich hab und bin...’ the first aria of the BWV 72 cantata. An unusual movement this, an alto aria (sung by Robin Blaze) accompanied by a concertante fugue on two violins and continuo. The violins are given a satisfying halo by the resonance by the hall, but again keep the ornamentation and the phrasing considerably more restrained than the singer, whose approach sounds more natural, but also less disciplined in comparison.

Variety maintains interest, as Bach himself well understood, and Suzuki’s choice of soloists seems intended to maximise the diversity of timbre and style. Rachel Nicholls and Robin Blaze deliver performances that are more-or-less in keeping with Suzuki’s project, while the tenor and bass, Gerd Türk and Peter Kooij, do less for the overall effect. Türk has two significant arias, the opening movement of the cantata ‘Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen’ BWV 13 and the final aria of BWV 16. Both are delivered with a heavy, operatic vibrato and with clipped phrases that do no justice to the elegant accompaniment. (Incidentally, the recorders in the BWV 13 aria are a marvel of precision Japanese playing, two players performing throughout in unison with precisely matched articulation and dynamics.) Peter Kooij is an experienced performer in this repertoire, but his voice is not what it once was. A lack of projection and unevenness of tone combine with a curious lack of emotional engagement in many instances. This is especially apparent in the bass aria in BWV 13, where consolation from heaven turns ‘pitiable weeping’ into ‘a light of joy’ over the course of the movement. Or it should. In the event, the divine revelation never really takes off and we remain in the throes of ‘the sickness of sorrows’ throughout.

Mixed feelings, then, about this disc. It is not significantly inferior to any of Bach Collegium Japan’s previous outings, but the unevenness, both in terms of quality and style, of the vocal soloists repeatedly counts against it. There are some plus points, that opening chorus is light and crisp with boisterous continuo and clear inner orchestral parts. The SACD sound (expertly rendered as ever by BIS) combines with the acoustic of the Kobe Shoin Women’s University Chapel to create a warm yet detailed sound. The collective and precisely synchronised intake of breath before each chorale is a reminder of the level of acoustic fidelity we are experiencing. But on a disc of solo cantatas, these issues are always going to take second place to the performances of the soloists. The last leg of Suzuki’s Bach cantata project could benefit significantly from some new faces in the front row.

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Works: 4  

Johann Sebastian Bach - Cantata "Alles nur nach Gottes Willen", BWV 72
Johann Sebastian Bach - Cantata "Herr Gott, dich loben wir", BWV 16
Johann Sebastian Bach - Cantata "Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen", BWV 32 (Concerto in Dialogo)
Johann Sebastian Bach - Cantata "Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen", BWV 13