Bach Cantatas

Author: 
Nicholas Anderson

Bach Cantatas

  • Cantata No. 39, 'Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot'
  • Cantata No. 93, 'Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt w
  • Cantata No. 107, 'Was willst du dich betrüben'

This is the second of Philippe Herreweghe's Bach cantata recordings for Virgin Classics. I reviewed the earlier disc very enthusiastically (5/93) and so approached this one eagerly and with a degree of confidence that has proved well founded. The three pieces included here are mature examples of Bach's cantata writing; two of them, Nos. 93 and 107, were written in 1724 for the Fifth and Seventh Sundays after Trinity respectively, and thus belong to Bach's great second cycle in which he concentrated on a chorale-based scheme. No. 93 is founded on a mid-seventeenth-century hymn by Georg Neumark and No. 107 on another of the same period by Johann Heermann. The remaining cantata, No. 39, slightly later and of a different compositional type, is constructed along the lines of several by Bach's cousin at Meiningen, Johann Ludwig Bach, whose pieces Bach sometimes performed at Leipzig at this time. It is a masterly work, above all in the concerto-like construction of the opening chorus, scored for voices with treble recorders, oboes and strings.
For this recording Herreweghe has used a solo line-up slightly changed from the previous one. Here, Barbara Schlick has been replaced by Agnes Mellon, and Gerard Lesne by Charles Brett. Howard Crook and Peter Kooy are common to both discs. On balance there is little to choose between them and preferences one way or the other will depend more upon personal taste than any technical disparity. Agnes Mellon is beguiling both in her three arias—one per cantata—and in her duo with Charles Brett, though she lacks the linguistic assurance of Schlick who is the more experienced Bach singer. Brett is sensitive in his single aria (No. 39) and effectively balances Mellon in the above-mentioned duet (No. 93). Both Crook and Kooy are on characteristically fine form, dealing confidently and expressively with Bach's often virtuoso writing. Crook's account of ''Drum ich mich ihm ergebe'' (No. 107) is delightful, furthermore revealing Bach in distinctly rococo clothes. Enjoyable, too, are the contributions from the Chorus and Orchestra of the Ghent Collegium Vocale. The string continuo playing has greater assurance than in some of Herreweghe's earlier cantata recordings and, as usual, the oboe playing of Marcel Ponseele is a constant pleasure, above all for his poetic phrasing and communicative articulation. An excellent recorded sound sets the seal on a fine issue. Strongly recommended.'

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