JS BACH Cantatas Nos 88, 199 & 84
Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut draws on the parable of the Pharisee and the publican but ignores the smugness of the former in favour of the publican’s appeal to God for mercy. Bach composed it in Weimar in 1714; what we have here is a later version for Leipzig, transposed up by a tone and the obbligato in the chorale taken by a violoncello piccolo. The present-day pitch favoured by the Berlin ensemble assists Christine Schäfer in conveying much of the cantata – especially the two breast-beating accompanied recitatives – with a near-manic desperation. The ‘mute sighs’ of the first aria find eloquent expression in Jonathan Kelly’s oboe; though Elizabeth Watts and Katharine Spreckelsen, slower and about a minor third lower, are even more moving. The mood lightens towards the end, the final aria being a gigue to which Schäfer brings a bright-toned joy.
The source of Ich bin vergnügt (1727) is the gospel for Septuagesima, the parable of the labourers in the vineyard. The severity of the opening aria, soprano and oboe duetting over a pervasive dotted figure, rather belies the contentment of the words. After a secco recitative, the cheerful ‘Ich esse mit Freuden’ makes a welcome contrast. No complaints there. But, for me, Bach’s soprano version of Ich habe genug, the oboe replaced by a flute, doesn’t come off. Schäfer sings ‘Schlummert ein’ nicely but it pales beside the depth communicated by Shirley-Quirk, Fischer-Dieskau or Hotter. The Dorian Fugue and the six-part Ricercar are beautifully played.