Bach Magnificat

A wonderfully vibrant and telling account of a perennial favourite

Author: 
Jonathan Freeman-Attwood
Bach Magnificat, PierlotBach Magnificat, Pierlot

BACH Magnificat - Pierlot

  • Magnificat
  • Mass
  • Chorale Preludes, Fuga sopra il Magnificat (Meine Seele erhebt den Herren), BWV733
  • Preludes and Fugues, Prelude and Fugue in G, BWV541

Presented as a grand work with a single-voice chorus, this reading of the Magnificat is as vitally conceived and multi-dimensional as I can recall. So often the blend of a madrigal-sized choir detracts from a necessary corporate impact but such is the keen characterisation of the text and the willingness to “come and go” in the texture that the Ricercar Consort convey, in the exultant framing movements and “Omnes generationes”, a rare combination of visceral rhythmic verve and vocal energy.

The solo movements are also bursting with personality, soprano Anna Zander delivering a robustly fluent “Et exultavit” and her counterpart, Maria Keohane, a sensually captivating “Quia respexit”, whose oboe d’amore obbligato dovetails her lines with imploring beauty. If the alto, Carlos Mena, is the least vocally poised, then his “Esurientes” is still exceptionally judged and his duetting with tenor Hans-Jörg Mammel in “Et misericordia” sensitively projected. As throughout, all the singing is complemented by delectable instrumental accompaniments. “Suscepit Israel” is the highlight, however: a bittersweet Carissimi-like trio (perhaps more Scarlatti Stabat mater in supplication?) of mesmerising fragility.

The G minor Mass represents a clever juxtaposition of conceits with the Magnificat, as Bach revisits choice cantata movements (from BWV72, 102 and 187) and parodies them so successfully – whatever past curmudgeons say – that this lesser-known example from the four so-called “Lutheran Masses” reminds us what they can communicate so specially with such a finely blended and integrated ensemble as the Ricercar Ensemble. Francis Jacob – whose Bach recital (Zig-Zag, 5/01) remains a favourite – provides considered accounts of two significant solo organ works. Less abandon than Koopman, perhaps, but this is supremely refined playing and articulates the ambitions of an exceptionally distinguished project.

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