Bach's Cantatas: Selected Recordings
The Gramophone Choice
‘Cantatas, Vol 1: City of London’– Cantatas Nos 7, 20, 30, 39, 75 & 167
Gillian Keith, Joanne Lunn sops Wilke te Brummelstroete contr Paul Agnew ten Dietrich Henschel bass Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists / Sir John Eliot Gardiner
Soli Deo Gloria SDG101 (148’ · DDD · T/t) Recorded live at St Giles Cripplegate, London, June 23-26, 2000. Buy from Amazon
‘Cantatas, Vol 8: Bremen/Santiago de Compostela’ – Cantatas Nos 8, 27, 51, 95, 99, 100, 138 & 161
Katharine Fuge, Malin Hartelius sops William Towers, Robin Tyson countertens James Gilchrist, Mark Padmore tens Thomas Guthrie, Peter Harvey basses Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists / Sir John Eliot Gardiner
Soli Deo Gloria SDG104 (145’ · DDD · T/t) Recorded live at the Unser Lieben Frauen, Bremen, Germany, September 28, 2000; Santo Domingo de Bonaval, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, October 7, 2000. Buy from Amazon
In 2000 John Eliot Gardiner commemorated the 250th anniversary of Bach’s death with the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, a year-long European tour by the English Baroque Soloists and Monteverdi Choir that presented all of Bach’s extant cantatas on the appropriate liturgical feast days. Here are the first two instalments of the complete cycle. Soli Deo Gloria’s presentation is first-class. The CDs are cased in a handsomely designed hardbound book, complete with texts, translations and Gardiner’s extensive, informative notes based on a journal he kept during the Pilgrimage.
The interpretations are consistently fine – often superb, in fact – with surprisingly few wrong steps or disappointments, especially given the unusually gruelling performance schedule that produced them. Among the many mind-blowing, beautiful moments is the deliciously syncopated contralto aria from No 30, sung with poise by Wilke te Brummelstroete and graced by playing of magical delicacy from the EBS. And there’s the extraordinary opening chorus of No 8, with its seemingly endless melodic tendrils, chiming flute part and plucked strings, sounding like a celestial dance. Special mention must be made of the artistry of tenor Mark Padmore, who maintains his sweet, ringingly clear tone even in the demanding leaps and roulades of his aria in No 95.
It’s in delicate or intimate music that Gardiner shines most luminously, and some may find that he unduly emphasises the contemplative. His thoughtful, refined approach is strikingly similar to Suzuki’s cycle on BIS, though Gardiner’s versions sound just a bit warmer. Although his interpretations offer the finest attributes of period practice – transparency and litheness – there’s a long-breathed musicality here that can be lacking in other accounts.
‘Cantatas, Vol 5’
Cantatas Nos 18, 143, 152, 155 & 161
Midori Suzuki, Ingrid Schmithüsen sops Yoshikazu Mera counterten Makoto Sakurada ten Peter Kooij bass Bach Collegium Japan / Masaaki Suzuki org
BIS BIS-CD841 (78' · DDD · T/t) Buy from Amazon
The fifth volume of Bach’s sacred cantatas performed by the Bach Collegium Japan continues their Weimar survey with five pieces written between c1713 and 1716. It begins with No 18, performed in its Weimar version – Bach later revived it for Leipzig, adding two treble recorders to the purely string texture of the upper parts of the earlier composition. The scoring of No 152 is more diverse, featuring in its opening Sinfonia a viola d’amore, viola da gamba, oboe and recorder.
A conspicuous feature of No 155 is its melancholy duet for alto and tenor with bassoon obbligato. While the vocal writing sustains something of the character of a lament the wonderfully athletic, arpeggiated bassoon solo provides a magical third voice. The accompanying essay is confused here, emphasising the importance of a solo oboe which in fact has no place at all in this work. No 161 is a piece of sustained beauty, scored for a pair of treble recorders, obbligato organ, strings and continuo. Bach’s authorship of No 143 has sometimes been questioned. Much of it is un-Bach‑like, yet at times it’s hard to envisage another composer’s hand.
The performances are of unmatched excellence. Suzuki’s direction never falters and his solo vocalists go from strength to strength as the series progresses. Suzuki makes a richly rewarding contribution with beautifully poised singing, a crystal-clear voice and an upper range that only very occasionally sounds at all threatened. Mera and Sakurada sustain a delicately balanced partnership in the elegiac duet of No 155, the limpid bassoon-playing completing this trio of outstanding beauty. Kooij is a tower of strength, a sympathetic partner to Suzuki in the dance-like duet between Jesus and the Soul (No 152), and resonantly affirmative in his aria from the same cantata. But the highest praise should go to Mera and Sakurada for their affecting performance in No 161. All the elements of this superb cantata are understood and deeply felt by all concerned. The disc is admirably recorded and, apart from the aforementioned confusion, painstakingly and informatively documented.
‘Cantatas, Vol 8’
Cantatas Nos 22, 23 & 75
Midori Suzuki sop Yoshikazu Mera counterten Gerd Türk ten Peter Kooij bass Bach Collegium Japan / Masaaki Suzuki org
BIS BIS-CD901 (64' · DDD · T/t) Buy from Amazon
This eighth volume of Bach Collegium Japan’s Bach cantata series bridges the period between Bach’s departure from Cöthen and his arrival at Leipzig, early in 1723. Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn (No 23) was mainly written at Cöthen, while Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe (No 22) must have been composed almost immediately on Bach’s reaching Leipzig. The remaining cantata, Die Elenden sollen essen is on an altogether grander scale, in two parts, each of seven movements. The performances maintain the high standards of singing, playing and scholarship set by the previous issues in this series. There are little insecurities here and there – the oboes, which play a prominent role in each of the three pieces, aren’t always perfectly in agreement over tuning – but the careful thought given to the words, their significance and declamation, and the skill with which they’re enlivened by the realisation of Bach’s expressive musical vocabulary, remain immensely satisfying. The disciplined, perceptively phrased and beautifully sustained singing of the two choral numbers of No 23 illuminate the words at every turn, savouring the seemingly infinite expressive nuances of the music. As for No 75, we can only imagine the astonishment with which Leipzig ears must have attuned to its music. In this absolutely superb piece Bach entertains us with a breathtaking stylistic diversity. Polyphony, fugue, chorale fantasia, da capo aria, instrumental sinfonia, varied recitative, wonderful oboe writing and a rhythmic richesse all contribute to the special distinction both of this cantata and No 75.
Lose no time in becoming acquainted with this one. It reaches, you might say, those parts that other performances do not.
‘Cantatas, Vol 46’
Cantatas – No 17, 19, 45 & 102 (with alternative version of tenor aria ‘Erschrecke doch…’)
Hana Blažíková sop Robin Blaze counterten Gerd Türk ten Peter Kooij bass Bach Collegium Japan / Masaaki Suzuki
BIS BIS-SACD1851 (76’ · DDD/DSD · T/t) Buy from Amazon
In its impressive consistency, if not dynamism, Masaaki Suzuki’s 15-year-old series is drawing to a close with some especially fine performances. The chronology takes us to late summer in 1726 and four works without a wrinkle or crease between them. In the past, Collegium Musicum Japan have found those programmes of especially rich material somewhat overwhelming, leaving us with at least a single work under-explored or genially neutralised.
If those are Achilles heels, then the redress can be rigorous conviction and fresh air. Such is the case in the evergreen Es ist dir gesagt, one of Bach’s surprisingly little-known masterpieces. Suzuki’s unhurried but projected reading reveals the profound structural and contrapuntal originality and flair of this work. The opening chorus is warm, natural and compellingly cohesive (as indeed it is in the outstanding tripartite chorus of No 102). No less fine is the bass arioso, taken here at some lick, with Peter Kooij back to his flexible best.
Vocal contributions elsewhere are as notable, Gerd Türk perhaps reaching his apogee so far in ‘Bleibt, ihr Engel’, a wonderful tenor aria from No 19. This is a movement of a uniquely Bachian gait: heart-stopping in its bedside, slumbering manner, yet at the same time presenting an unyielding expressive and vocal challenge.
Both Hana Blažíková and Robin Blaze bring equivalent meaning to their principal arias. Blaze is joined in No 102 by some delectable obbligato oboe-playing in ‘Weh, der Seele’, an F minor aria in which both lines feed on each other in dovetailing, bittersweet commentary. Bach clearly rated this cantata highly as, later, he parodied this movement and the chorus for his Lutheran Masses. Blažíková is developing into a ringing and engaging Bach singer, her ‘Herr, deine Güte’ – a fine concerto-inspired aria from No 17 – pinpoint accurate and full of form.
The Japanese ensemble is at its very best in the sprung and textural luminosity of Herr, deine Augen, whose juxtaposition of dance and remorseful chromatic inflection bursts with character. A high-water mark in the series as we approach the home straight.
‘Cantatas, Vol 48’
Cantatas – No 34, 98, 117, & 120
Hana Blažíková sop Robin Blaze counterten Satoshi Mizukoshi ten Peter Kooij bass Bach Collegium Japan / Masaaki Suzuki
BIS BIS-SACD1881 (72’ · DDD · T/t) Buy from Amazon
Dating cantatas from Bach’s later years remains an indeterminate business. This is the case in at least one of these four mature works, O ewiges Feuer (No 34), where a recently discovered libretto places its premiere a good 15 years earlier than the 1742 of a later revision. As with the second version of Bach’s three cantata settings of Was Gott tut (Nos 98‑100), this graphic Whitsun work is given a sturdy performance. The compelling juxtaposition of the crackling fire of the Holy Spirit and soaring eternity leaves us less satisfied in the virtuoso opening chorus than in Bach’s skilful transformation of ‘Wohl euch’ from a secular ‘slumber aria’ into an intimate spiritual devotion. Robin Blaze is at his most ringing, mellifluous and assuaging here.
Yet Masaaki Suzuki’s strength lies in summoning up a world from the text and a sense of believing it (if not always in its capacity to enable a performance to fly far from its stylistic boundaries). This he does with supreme elegance and luminosity in Sei Lob und Ehr (No 117), a superb chorale cantata in which the hymn text remains unaltered throughout, with some distinguished if small-scale singing from tenor Satoshi Mizukoshi. ‘Was unser Gott’ evokes God’s creative sleight of hand which Suzuki accompanies with a graceful but unobtrusive continuo under delectably mellow wind dialogues. The languid and delicate tone is extended in another glorious alto aria, ‘Ich will dich all mein Leben’, accompanied by flautist Liliko Maeda.
If that work is evidence of Bach’s gradual move towards a more finely etched and economic style, the simple beauty of Gott, man lobet dich (No 120 – yes, with another storming alto aria) lies in the entrancing ‘Heil und Segen’ for soprano and obbligato violin. It is sung exquisitely by Hana Blažíková and caps another consistently fine performance in the late autumn of Suzuki’s steadily impressive marathon.
‘Cantatas, Vol 9: Lund/Leipzig’
Cantatas Nos 47, 96, 114, 116, 148 & 169. Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf, BWV226. Vor deinen Thron ich hiermit, BWV668
Katharine Fuge sop Frances Bourne, Nathalie Stutzmann contrs Charles Humphries, Robin Tyson countertens Christoph Genz, Mark Padmore tens Stephan Loges, Gotthold Schwarz basses Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists / Sir John Eliot Gardiner
Soli Deo Gloria SDG159 (138’ · DDD · T/t) Recorded live at Allhelgonakyrkan, Lund, October 14, 2000; Thomaskirche, Leipzig, October 22, 2000. Buy from Amazon
If ‘rating’ Bach cantatas is a perilous business, Nos 148, 114 or 47 undeniably fall outside the category where the incremental impact of the whole work can be said to transport the listener into another sphere altogether. Each, however, contains some exceptional movements, including ebullient choruses and one or two memorable arias. The opening salvos of the thrusting No 148 are less gripping than might have been the case given more time (the concertante trumpet also seems a touch recessed), but Gardiner manages to convey an exceptional logic in the restless rhetorical figures of Ach, lieben Christen (No 114), a piece which plays fascinatingly on the contradictions of divine encouragement and admonishment.
This cantata also includes the aria ‘Wo wird in diesem Jammertale’, a model of the extended soul-searching tableau in which, here, the singer and obbligato flute are co-subsumed within a vale of sorrow. It is beguilingly delivered by tenor Mark Padmore and flautist Rachel Beckett, the highlight of the Lund programme, alongside a delightfully measured performance of the motet Der Geist hilft.
The introduction of young solo singers brings many fresh nuances to the 17th Trinity Sunday works, though the experienced team for the 18th Sunday from St Thomas’s, Leipzig, provides rather more consistent and embedded readings. One of Bach’s most incandescent and gracious choruses, ‘Herr Christ, der ein’ge Gottessohn’ (No 96) compels Gardiner to draw richly on the irradiating tonal and textural contrasts of lyrical choral writing under the stellar filigree of a sopranino recorder.
The resolute confidence of Gotthold Schwarz’s characterful singing in this work prepares us for an electrifying account of the Sinfonia of No 169 (Howard Moody’s obbligato organ playing a lesson in unfussy finesse), which itself heralds Bach’s least celebrated but, arguably, most refined and mature alto cantata. Nathalie Stutzmann sails through each portion with her inimitable diction and plush allure. The centrepiece is, of course, Bach’s brilliant reworking of the Siciliano from the Concerto, BWV1053, and Gardiner takes this briskly enough for Stutzmann to shape the extensive embellishments within an especially elegant phraseology. Another remarkable stage.
‘Cantatas, Vol 12: Tooting/Winchester’
Cantatas Nos 52, 55, 60, 89, 115, 139, 140 & 163
Susan Hamilton, Gillian Keith, Joanne Lunn sops Hilary Summers contr Robin Tyson counterten James Gilchrist, William Kendall tens Peter Harvey bass Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists / Sir John Eliot Gardiner
Soli Deo Gloria SDG171 (141’ · DDD · T/t) Recorded live at All Saints, Tooting, November 17, 2000; Winchester Cathedral, November 26, 2000. Buy from Amazon
‘Cantatas, Vol 18: Weimar/Leipzig/Hamburg’
Cantatas Nos 32, 63, 65, 123, 124, 154 & 191
Magdalena Kožená, Claron McFadden sops Sally Bruce-Payne, Bernarda Fink contrs Michael Chance counterten Christoph Genz, James Gilchrist tens Peter Harvey, Dietrich Henschel basses Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists / Sir John Eliot Gardiner
Soli Deo Gloria SDG174 (131’ · DDD · T/t) Recorded live at Herderkirche, Weimar, December 25, 1999; Nikolaikirche, Leipzig, January 6, 2000; Hauptkirche St Jacobi, Hamburg, January 9, 2000. Buy from Amazon
These last two volumes close the story of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage – or not quite, because Gardiner is, somewhere in the half-light of his busy existence, writing a book about Bach. But there will be no more exotic pictures adorning those satisfying black books full of Gardiner’s weaving diary, Richard Stokes’s enlightened translations and an endless supply of musical surprises. It was through this project that Soli Deo Gloria became the chronicling arm of Gardiner and his choir and orchestra. Imaginative contractual flexibility and the enterprising Isabella, Gardiner’s creative and able producing wife, resulted in 27 releases.
The pattern of variability in the performances throughout the series is reflected in these two final volumes from Weimar to Winchester, though the wonder is the high ratio of compelling results to the less satisfying. Unsurprisingly, the most brilliant and evergreen performances come from the Monteverdi Choir; one only has to hear the range of choral execution to appreciate these urgent, luminous and unwavering contributions. Some of the best is to be heard in Vol 18: an exuberant No 63, and probably the most delectable sound picture for the Epiphany masterpiece No 65 ever captured, the ritualised, spice-laden mysteries of the Magi magnificently caught.
Having remarked on choral distinction, the ability to produce excellent period-instrument playing in so many different locales is another admirable characteristic. There are unavoidably painful moments but the ‘hit rate’ is extraordinary when you think how few options the producer could draw upon as the tour moved inexorably towards the next location with no time to dawdle.
Of the soloists, there are undoubted moments when the results reflect the peculiar conditions of performing such profoundly demanding music on the road, exacerbated by some singers whose technical and expressive range simply cannot penetrate the heart of the music; this becomes especially marked on repeated listening. Yet, for any singer, such a gruelling schedule is hardly a recipe for reflective immersion and in the circumstances we must tolerate the occasional ‘al dente’ performance.
There are countless highlights in the final two volumes. The duet-singing in No 32 between Claron McFadden and Peter Harvey is memorably rewarding. Similarly cathartic is the peerless, reassuring expression of eternal union in the great duet of No 154 with Michael Chance and James Gilchrist. Gilchrist has consistently delivered the most outstanding solo performances over the series. He also delivers one of the best No 55s since Ernst Haefliger. Gardiner can take chances with Gilchrist he rarely takes elsewhere. In No 115, on the other hand, the risk of a slow tempo for the soprano aria, ‘Bete aber’, is less successful. For all Joanne Lunn’s admirable tonal focus, sustaining a line with the necessary grip is asking a little too much. Indeed, if there is one regret in this series, it is the lack of a regular top-class soprano to lead the line.
Gillian Keith is gloriously assuaging in ‘Ich halte er mit dem lieben Gott’ from No 52. Perhaps that’s what this series does so uniquely: it tells a wonderfully unpredictable story, at the point of execution, of a corporate spirit of discovery as musicians grapple with and inhabit a repertoire of unfathomable depth. The relative control and consistency of the studio gives way to a viscerality of response, bursts of concentrated vigour and raw pathos underpinned by endless supplies of sheer pluck.
In this regard, the Pilgrimage stands alongside the pioneering Leonhardt-Harnoncourt set: rough edges and some misfiring; but the love and character in this music find no greater advocacy than here. For this we must thank Gardiner’s Pilgrimage troupe and all those knights in shining armour who rescued the project in the dark hours before it took the millennium by storm.
‘Cantatas, Vol 17: Berlin’
Cantatas Nos 16, 41, 58, 143, 153 & 171
Ruth Holton sop Lucy Ballard, Sally Bruce-Payne contrs Charles Humphries counterten James Gilchrist ten Peter Harvey bass Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists / Sir John Eliot Gardiner
Soli Deo Gloria SDG150 (96’ · DDD · T/t) Recorded live at the Gethsemanekirche, Berlin, on January 1 & 2, 2000. Buy from Amazon
Performed on the first days of the new millennium, this Pilgrimage volume has an especially candid coherence about it. These six New Year cantatas consistently speak of new prospect and a consolidated ambition to serve God’s purpose.
If trumpets predominate in the festive exulting of the first four cantatas, the forces diminish markedly in Nos 153 and 58, partly because the theme of joy is startlingly checked by the fear of evil influence but, also, because Bach’s hard-working troupe would have been sung-out after a busy Christmas. The resonant Gethsemanekirche in Berlin is beautifully handled throughout by both Gardiner and his engineers.
Most stirring perhaps is the bold canvas of Jesu, nun sei gepreiset (No 41), whose energetic climbs (with, in the opening chorus, one exceptional break to wave farewell on the words ‘that we in prosperous peace have completed the old year’) are negotiated with exceptional bravura. Then, later, there’s a pastoral aria with oboe contours of shepherding solace that one recognises from the Christmas Oratorio.
If pickings are rich here, the ‘guardian’ arias are most illuminatingly realised by James Gilchrist, notably in ‘Woferne’ from the same cantata, whose piccolo cello circumnavigates the all-encompassing grace of the vocal line. Possibly even more beguiling is the conceit of untainted bliss in ‘Geliebter Jesu’ in No 16 with its stunning oboe da caccia accompaniment. Bach instils an innocence and trust here which Peter Harvey virtuosically sets up in the great solo nestling between the exhortations of the maverick aria-chorus, ‘Lasst uns jauchzen’.
The opening cantata, No 143, may be a spurious work: there’s something of the apprentice about it. This could not be further from the truth in the concise masterpieces No 153 and 58. In the former, there’s something touching about Sally Bruce-Payne emerging from the Monteverdi Choir to sing her cathartic ‘Soll ich meinen’ after the mental breakdown of ‘Stürmt nur’ (a fine ‘rage’ aria). Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid is given a slightly brittle reading here.
Gardiner reminds us again here that his hit-rate is exceptionally high.
‘Cantatas, Vol 22: Eisenach’
Cantatas Nos 4, 6, 31, 66, 134 & 145
Angharad Gruffydd Jones, Gillian Keith sops Daniel Taylor counterten James Gilchrist ten Stephen Varcoe bass Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists / Sir John Eliot Gardiner
Soli Deo Gloria SDG128 (121’ · DDD · T/t) Recorded live at the Georgenkirche, Eisenach, on April 23-24, 24-25, 2000. Buy from Amazon
Easter 2000 had strong historical resonances for Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s cantata pilgrims, as these outstanding works were performed in St George’s, Eisenach, where Bach was baptised, and only a stone’s throw from Wartburg Castle where Luther completed his New Testament translations.
One can only guess what inspired an unusually visceral reading of Christ lag in Todesbanden (No 4 – arguably Bach’s first great creation), with a plethora of extremes from the Monteverdi Choir. One might quibble with moments where orchestral gestures are a little exaggerated but this is a performance where the sinuous lines and the momentum of liturgical ritual allow Luther’s great hymn to take us tantalisingly to the brink of Christ’s victory.
The Easter cantatas receive some ebullient readings. Erfreut euch (No 66) boasts one of Bach’s longest choral movements and the composer (and Gardiner) demands vigilance from his virtuoso ensemble, whose roulades of quicksilver scales shed all the fear of the preceding weeks. Despite a few uncertainties in the chromatic solos of the middle section, this is a powerful account whose spiritual core is found in the central recitative-duet between the allegorical characters Hope and Fear.
The presence of James Gilchrist in any Bach recording raises the stakes and his singing in the little-known pearl Ein Herz (No 134) is an infectious display of the new believer’s ecstatic joy, expressed disarmingly in his first aria and reinforced in the duet with alto ‘Wir danken and preisen’.
This volume continues to present the riches of the Pilgrimage with admirable consistency; rough edges aside, there is a unique sense of exploration and devotion to the music which comes from the palpable adrenalin of live performance in an oeuvre which has, historically, been studio-bound. Bleib bei uns (No 6) with its strong St John Passion undertones, is an embodiment of the best in the millennial journey and receives one of the most concentrated and telling performances on disc.
Cantatas Nos 82 & 199. Concerto for Oboe, Violin and Strings, BWV1060
Emma Kirkby sop Katharina Arfken ob Freiburg Baroque Orchestra / Gottfried von der Goltz vn
Carus 83 302 (62‘ · DDD · T/t) Buy from Amazon
One of the world’s brightest Baroque ensembles performing with one of the world’s most admired Baroque sopranos is an enticing proposition. What’s more, the solo cantatas on offer here are two of Bach’s most moving: No 82, Ich habe genug, that serene contemplation of the afterlife; and No 199, Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut, a relatively early work with a text that moves from the wallowing self-pity of the sinnner to joyful relief in God’s mercy. Each contains music of great humanity and beauty, and each, too, contains an aria of aching breadth and nobility – the justly celebrated ‘Schlummert ein’ in the case of Ich habe genug, and in Mein Herze the humble but assured supplication of ‘Tief gebückt’.
Both could have been written for Emma Kirkby, who’s perhaps at her best in this kind of long-breathed, melodically sublime music, in which pure beauty of vocal sound counts for so much. The support of the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra is total, combining tightness of ensemble with such flexibility and sensitivity to the job of accompaniment that you really feel they’re ‘playing the words’. The Freiburgers also give one of the most satisfyingly thoroughbred accounts of the Violin and Oboe Concerto on disc. Add a recorded sound which perfectly combines bloom, clarity and internal balance, and you’ve a CD to treasure.
Cantatas Nos 82 & 199
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson mez Peggy Pearson ob Orchestra of Emmanuel Music / Craig Smith
Nonesuch 7559 79692-2 (51' · DDD · T/t) Buy from Amazon
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson’s performances of these two cantatas are like deeply personal, supplicatory confessionals. The American mezzo-soprano has a dark and well-focused sound, and brings words and music to life through a wealth of imaginative detail. The Orchestra of Emmanuel Music (a Boston-based church that incorporates the Bach cantata cycle into its regular liturgy) provides warm-hearted, rich-toned support from 11 strings plus bassoon, and Peggy Pearson shapes the obbligato oboe d’amore parts with exquisite sensitivity. A stunning and remarkably affecting achievement all round.