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Bach: Cantatas, Vol 54 - Suzuki

Bach: Cantatas, Vol 54 - Suzuki

BIS  BIS-2021 SACD

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Vocal


Johann Sebastian Bach:
"Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan", BWV 100
"Wär Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit", BWV 14
Kantate zum 4. Sonntag nach Epiphanias (30. Januar 1735). Text: anon.; [1, 5] Martin Luther
"Gott ist unsre Zuversicht", BWV 197
Trauung / Wedding (1736/37?)
"Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe", BWV 197a (fragment)
Kantate zum 1. Weihnachtstag (Uraufführung: 25. Dezember 1728?)

Hana Blažíková (soprano)
Damien Guillon (counter-tenor)
Gerd Türk (tenor)
Peter Kooij (bass)
Jean-François Madeuf (trumpet)
Kiyomi Suga (flauto traverso)
Masamitsu San’nomiya, (oboe d’amore)
Yukiko Murakami (bassoon)
Natsumi Wakamatsu (violin)
Bach Collegium Japan
Masaaki Suzuki (conductor)


As the penultimate volume in the acclaimed cycle recorded by Masaaki Suzuki and his Bach Collegium Japan sees the light of day, it is a sobering thought that as many as a hundred of Bach's church cantatas may have been lost.

The exact number would be difficult to ascertain, but what we do know is that Bach probably composed at least one more complete set of cantatas – for the church year of 1728-29 – and of this set only nine are extant. The fragment Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe, BWV197a, apparently intended for Christmas Day of 1728, is one of these.

Bach's autograph score lacks no fewer than 24 pages, meaning that the first three movements and a large proportion of the fourth have been lost. We are fortunate, however, in that nine years later Bach reused parts of the work in the large-scale wedding cantata Gott ist unsre Zuversicht, BWV197.

This has made it possible to reconstruct the missing part of the fourth movement – an alto aria addressed to baby Jesus in the manger – and also allows for interesting comparisons between the two versions.

The other two works included in this volume were both composed around 1735, and give rich evidence of Bach's versatility in terms of style.

The contrast is striking between the decidedly fashionable bass aria BWV100/4, with its syncopated melody and gossamer string writing, and the highly intricate counterpoint that Bach lays out in Wär Gott nicht mit uns, the opening chorus of BWV14.

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Review by Adrian Quanjer - September 9, 2013

Masaaki Suzuki’s Bach Cantata cycle will soon be nearing its completion. Looking back I cannot but conclude that so far he has delivered the goods with remarkable consistency: outstanding performances and ditto sound.

Maybe that as a consequence thereof there have not been many reviews on this site. Have their excellence become so self-evident that no further comments were requiered? Whatever it is, I am convinced that many feel greatly indebted to Masaaki Suzuki, his musicians, soloists and singers for all the hours of joy they have provided.

And it seems appropriate to extend this gratitude to BIS, who were not only the ‘instigators’ of this immense project, but also managed to stay afloat during all those years. (Ton Koopman was not so lucky when Erato went down and he had to find another way of completing his wonderful cycle, which he, with the help of Challenge Records, finally did).

I have all volumes from 28 onwards (the first 27 being in RBCD format) and share the positive reviews here and elsewhere. Of course, as with other complete cycles, there are highs and lows, but the latter are rare with Masaaki Suzuki.

The present volume, with four cantatas, of which only two are related to the liturgical calendar, has clearly to be situated in the best part of the cycle. Everything that matters is there: jubilant trumpets, rumbling tympani, fine winds and a choir in excellent form. The soloists belong to the regulars: Blazikova, Türk and Kooy, with the exception of Robin Blaze’s stand in: Damien Guillon. Performances are up to the usual standard and so is the recording. No need, therefore, to dwell on what is by now common knowledge and, indeed, almost taken for granted.

I would, however, like to draw attention to the counter-tenor, Damien Guillon. I am not really a fan of counter-tenors singing alto parts. Unless it is someone of the stature of Philippe Jaroussky, I find them often less convincing than a female alto. This may be due to the fact that some have to sing at the top of their voice, sounding unnatural and with tonal instability. And in doing so, their ‘interpretative role’ suffers, too

Not so with Guillon, I’m pleased to say. I noted his exceptional quality already in the duet with Christoph Genz in Cantata 120a ‘Herr Got Beherrscher aller Dinge’ (Vol. 51). His voice is more like a mezzo soprano allowing him to sing with total and tonal confidence. It also gives him ample scope to contributing positively to the atmosphere and musicality of his part. He is, in one word: ‘fabulous’.

A day spent with Bach is a day well spent, especially on a Sunday in Normandy, with these forces and more than a fair bit of BIS.

Warmly recommended.

Post scriptum: a simple reference to the excellent liner notes does neither do justice to Klaus Hofmann nor the Production Notes by the Maestro himself. Taken together with previous issues they constitute a most welcome addition to a better understanding of Bach’s Cantatas. In other words: Another valuable Reference Book.

Copyright © 2013 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net

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