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Cantatas 83-86
Cantata BWV 83 Erfreute Zeit im neuen Bunde [18.49]
Cantata BWV 84 Ich bin vergn¸gt mit meinem Gl¸cke [14.33]
Cantata BWV 85 Ich bin ein guter Hirt [18.51]
Cantata BWV 86 Wahrlich, wahrlich, ich sage euch [15.51]

Bach Ensemble, Helmuth Rilling
Rec: 1978 - 1983.
HAENSSLER CD 92.027 [68.04]
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This recording presents four cantatas by Bach, all composed between 1724 and 1727, when Bach was in Leipzig.

It is possible that Bach based the first three movements of cantata 83 on a lost violin concerto. Listening to the opening of the first movement, one notices a sort of French sound to it, like a concerto movement, or an overture. The other movements also contain a very lively tone - one example is the tenor aria, Eile, Herz, voll Freudigkeit, sung admirably by Aldabert Kraus.

Cantata 84 opens with a plaintive oboe melody - Bach often uses the oboe with soprano arias. This is a modest cantata; there is only one soloist, the soprano (Arleen Augér, who is excellent), and the oboe is featured throughout the work. The second aria, Ich esse mit Freuden mein veniges Brot, is a fine example of Bach's best arias - the delightful joy of the soprano, together with the oboe and violin weaving around her melody, is about as good as it gets.

Cantata 85 is quite uneven - oddly enough, this work was recorded in three sessions, with two and a half years between the first and the last. It opens, as cantata 84, with a plaintive oboe melody (Bach really did like the oboe), accompanying an aria by bass Walter Heldwein, who sounds a bit weak here. The second aria is quite nice, with violoncello piccolo obbligato; this is one of the few cantatas with this instrument. Unfortunately, alto Gabriele Schreckenbach uses a bit too much vibrato for this music. The third section is the longest of this cantata, and is scored for only two oboes, bassoon and organ backing up soprano Arleen Augér, who is excellent.

Cantata 86 features four soloists, with arias sung by the bass, alto and tenor (the soprano sings a recitative). The first aria, for bass, is especially moving, and very well sung by Walter Heldwein. The second aria, Ich will doch wohl Rosen brechen, alto (Helen Watts), is a delightful movement, with a violin solo playing a rich, rhythmic accompaniment to the voice. This is another of Bach's most wonderful arias.

Rilling's performances of these cantatas are, is in most of his cantata recordings, very good. While Rilling is far from a "historically-inspired performer", he nevertheless captures the feeling of Bach's cantatas very well. Unlike some other cantata recordings, he has chosen to use female sopranos, and original instruments are not essential. This gives a much different tone than the Leonhardt/Harnoncourt recordings of Bach's cantatas, until recently the only other complete recording of these works. But Rilling rarely disappoints, and, for those who seek the music above "authenticity", Rilling's versions are always a fine choice.

Another excellent recording of Bach's cantatas by Helmuth Rilling. This disc contains four very nice cantatas, with fine soloists and very good performances by all those involved.

Kirk McElhearn

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