JS BACH; TELEMANN Sacred Cantatas
Two of Bach’s most sublime solo cantatas sung by a singer of Philippe Jaroussky’s lyrical beauty and poise is without doubt a mouthwatering prospect. The star of so many Italian-language Baroque operas, oratorios and cantatas tells us this is his first album in German, and the supremely consolatory qualities of Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust and Ich habe genug certainly seem the right place for him to start. His manner is distinctive, not so much the honeyed, godlike flow of Andreas Scholl (whose Bach cantata recording featuring Vergnügte Ruh – Harmonia Mundi, 5/98 – is a treasurable creation) or David Daniels (who part-recorded Ich habe genug for Virgin Classics – 11/08), as the vulnerable and reactive human soul declaiming recitatives with urgent detail. Thus he softly but lingeringly bids farewell to the world in Ich habe genug’s famous central aria ‘Schlummert ein’, tiptoes his way nervously through the tortuously groping middle aria of Vergnügte Ruh like some put-upon castrato operatic hero, or joyfully opens up his voice in the cathartic final arias of both cantatas. In short, he is both less comfortable to listen to than Scholl and Daniels and more compelling.
Equally refreshing is Jaroussky’s choice not to couple these two great works with Bach’s other alto cantatas (Nos 35 and 54) but with two cantatas by Telemann. That they were originally written for bass suggests that Jaroussky really does admire them for their musical qualities, and indeed they are works to surprise anyone eager to associate Telemann with superficiality. Both dealing with Passion themes – the tense agony on the Mount of Olives and the death of Jesus – they achieve their expressive aims with a subtle sense of colour and sweetly melodious mood-creation that Jaroussky rightly characterises as ‘intense purity’. Against Klaus Mertens’s affectionate but somewhat pallid performances with Accademia Daniel (CPO) they are clear winners. It goes without saying that the playing of the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra is absolutely first-class, but a special mention goes to the classy oboe of Ann-Kathrin Brüggemann.