Bach Cantatas 56 & 82
Bach's two cantatas for solo baritone/bass Nos. 56 and 82, have frequently been recorded in the past. Several versions are currently available and I have also reviewed perforrnances sung by Max van Egmond with a baroque ensemble directed by Frans Bruggen in my RCA/Seon piece on page 762. This new disc was recorded last year with the bass Harry van der Kamp and Fiori Musicali. Both cantatas are rich in symbolism, poetry and rhetoric and contain music of haunting beauty. One of the most arresting numbers in Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen is the first recitative where the text compares earthly life to a sea voyage. Bach illustrates the movement of the water in broken chords on the cello which together with the vocal melody, makes up a vivid picture. The focal point of Ich habe genug, on the other hand, is the aria ''Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen'' (''Fall asleep ye weary eyes'').
Harry van der Kamp gives a first-rate account of both cantatas and a memorable one of ''Schlummert ein''. His declamation, his feeling for the contours of Bach's melodies, his informed sense of style and, by no means least, his fine, open-sounding voice and acute ear, are a joy to listen to. I would find it difficult to take issue over any aspect of tempo or phrasing which he adopts. Ornamentation is discreet and appropriately placed and his diction beyond reproach. From the opening measures of Cantata No. 56 through to the close of No. 82 I found myself wholly involved in his fervent performance, while at the same time having little but praise for the ensemble Fiori Musicali. The oboists are accomplished players, secure, sweet-toned and able to shape their phrases gracefully, but perhaps what I admired as much as anything about the performance is the rapport which exists between the singer and his ensemble. They are in complete agreement over aspects of dynamic shading and move together as if they were a single instrument; and I liked the choir too.
All in all then, here is a fine issue, well documented and well recorded. I doubt if anything will lessen my affection for Max van Egmond, whose gentler voice and greater subtlety of inflexion are but two of the virtues of this sensitive Bach singer, and I shall always want his performances of these cantatas, but he is less sympathetically supported by his instrumental ensemble and I found some of the tempos a shade too fast. Readers who love the music would be very unwise to pass over this new release from a little-known but enterprising record company.'