This series of Italian cantatas by three eminent contemporaries makes for refined and focused listening.
Cencic…marries virtuosity with colour. The result is singing of great reach and range, in which verbal sensitivity and bravura execution are usually put at the service of the music.
It helps that in Ornamente 99, directed by Karsten Erik Ose, he has personable and instrumentally rich colleagues. The avian flutes in Vivaldi’s O mie porpore più belle offer rich support, and so too does the solo violin in the last aria, in which devotion and panache are allied. Cencic’s instinct for the dramatic is exemplified by Cessate, omai cessate where one finds that he cannily deploys his lower chest voice to generate an almost operatic tension. Elsewhere in these incisive, dramatic Vivaldi cantatas, one finds Cencic’s divisions spot-on, his legato pure and unwavering, and his recitatives excellently paced. Ose allows his obbligato players full rein where needed…He also galvanizes his strings in the stormy Amor, hai vinto, a ‘sea tossed’ cantata ripely encouraging surging string interjections. The strumming sea wash is excellently conveyed.
"It is…a fine pairing of two of Bach’s more extroverted works, in which Herreweghe delves beneath the masculine surface of the Magnificat to find its more tender interior and boldly explores Bach’s expansion of Luther’s great Reformation hymn, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. For whatever reason, Cantata 80 seems to have lost a degree of popularity lately, and it’s good to hear it again, complete with W. F. Bach’s interpolated trumpets."– George Chien
Another entry in Harmonia Mundi's ongoing Bach Edition, this recording from 1993 exemplifies both the consistently high standard of performance we've come to expect from Philippe Herreweghe and his Collegium Vocale and the astonishing musical variety and emotional/spiritual depth of Bach's vocal works. As usual in this series, the program reflects a theme, in this case the feast of Ascension, for which Bach wrote what proved to be his final oratorio (improperly catalogued as a cantata in the original edition of Bach's works) and at least three cantatas. The oratorio contains both original music and, as has recently been shown, several movements taken from cantatas no longer extant. It's a compelling and inexplicably underperformed work, far shorter than Bach's other oratorios, complete with some terrific orchestral music, two wonderful festive choruses, a tenor Evangelist narrator, a charming little duet for tenor and bass, and arias for soprano and alto.
"The Scholl/Herreweghe CD is distinguished by its marriage of beautiful sound and expressive intensity. The richly nuanced orchestral playing remains forceful throughout and Scholl imbues his beguiling voice with a fervent conviction…"– BBC Music Magazine
"Kooy must by now have appeared in more Bach cantata recordings than any other solo singer in history, and even in 1991 when these recordings were made he was an experienced Bach singer of immense authority. His performances of these soul-searching, inward-looking works are stamped with a level of technical command and sensitivity that renders more obvious gesture superfluous. This is masterly and utterly compelling singing."– Brian Robins
Alessandro Stradella’s colourful life and eventual murder have since furnished writers with material for novels and stageworks. But he was very highly regarded as a composer during his short life, and made important contributions to several musical forms with operas, instrumental sinfonie and cantatas. This programme features five seldom performed chamber cantatas and two of his sinfonie or sonatas. Soprano Christine Brandes has a light, pleasing voice, and an athletic technique which enables her to circumnavigate most of Stradella’s often demanding vocal writing. But she is stretched to her limits, perhaps even a shade beyond, in the virtuoso, fiendishly difficult ‘Ferma il corso e torna al lido’.
Although Bach's sacred cantatas span a huge expressive range and display a striking stylistic diversity, they were all composed for performance during a church service. In the case of the secular cantatas, on the other hand, their respective purpose is as varied as their subject matter and emotional content. They were usually commissions intended for occasions such as weddings, funerals and birthdays. As such they were sometimes performed in churches, and some of them have religious texts, but as the works gathered here exemplify, they were not related to the particular theme of the church service on a certain day.
Continuing their exploration of Bach’s vocal music, Bach Collegium Japan and Masaaki Suzuki have now reached the fifth volume of secular cantatas, with the previous instalment being ‘urgently recommended’ by the reviewer in Fanfare, and its contents described as ‘unusually colourful and vivid performances, even by the standards so far set by Suzuki’s Collegium Japan’ (International Record Review). Both cantatas on the present disc were first performed in 1733 by Bach and his Collegium Musicum at public concerts in Leipzig.
Although two of the works on this disc were composed for weddings, they are completely different in character. Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten is a charming and gracious garland of recitatives and arias for soprano solo in which Spring, Flora, Apollo and Amor are all invoked in a blessing of the newly wedded couple and their union.
The Quodlibet (Latin for ‘what pleases’) on the other hand, is an altogether unceremonious composition which was probably intended for a private function in Bach’s own circle or family. All we have is a fragment of the work – in Bach’s own hand – and the beginning and ending of the piece, including the title page, are missing.
Just over twenty secular cantatas by JS Bach have survived, and we know of almost thirty other cantatas that are now lost. The secular cantatas were almost all composed for some important, festive event in a family or in public, academic or political life. The present disc includes one of the most regularly performed of these works, the Coffee Cantata. This was written around 1734, probably for a performance at the Zimmermann Coffee House in Leipzig.
The disc opens with O holder Tag, a wedding cantata for solo soprano dated, in the version here performed, to 1741. (The piece was actually used in more or less modified form by Bach on at least five different occasions, from as early on as 1729.) The solo soprano, in her first BIS recording, is Carolyn Sampson who is one of the most exciting performers in her field today. A stunning introduction to the world of Bach's cantatas and to the incomparable Bach Collegium Japan directed by Masaaki Suzuki.
The complete cantata recordings of a Bach conductor who defined performance standards of these works in his day, newly remastered and compiled together for the first time on CD. In the generation of Bach interpreters before Karl Richter who brought his cantatas to an international audience, the name of Fritz Lehmann stands out: and indeed might still have eclipsed Richter but for his early death in 1956, at the age of just 51 and significantly just before the stereo era would move recorded music into a new era. Lehmann’s recorded legacy is nonetheless significant on its own terms, made mostly for Deutsche Grammophon and encompassing the Brahms’s German Requiem, and a Christmas Oratorio which he was recording at the time of his death, completed by Günther Arndt and now reissued by Eloquence (4827637).