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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger

The Bach Family: Das Alt-Bachische Archiv (The Archives of J. S. Bach)
Johann Michael BACH (1648-1694)

Die Furcht des Herren ... - cantata
Ich weiß, dass mein Erlöser lebt - motet
Auf, lasset uns den Herrn loben - aria
Ach, wie sehnlich wart ich der Zeit - aria
Herr, wenn ich nur dich habe - motet
Nun hab ich überwunden - motet
Das Blut Jesu Christi - motet
Johann Christoph BACH (1642-1703)

Lieber Herr Gott, wecke uns auf - motet
Wie bist du denn, o Gott in Zorn ... - lamento
Unseres Herzens Freude - motet
Meine Freundin, Du ist schön
Herr, nun lässest du deinen Diener ... - motet
Herr, wende dich ... - cantata
Der Gerechte, ob er gleich ... - motet
Mit Weinen hebt sichs an - aria
Ach, dass ich Wassers gnug hätte - lamento
Es ist nun aus mit meinem Leben - aria
ANONYMOUS/Adam DRESE? (c. 1620-1701)

Nun ist alles überwunden - aria
Weint nicht um meinen Tod - aria
Johann BACH:

Unser Leben ist ein Schatten - motet
Georg Christoph BACH:

Siehe, wie fein und lieblich - cantata
Johann BACH?/Jonas de FLETIN?

Sei nun wieder zufrieden - motet
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Ich lasse Dich nicht - motet BWV Anh. III 159
Konrad Junghänel
Cantus Cölln /Concerto Palatino (Director and Cornett: Bruce Dickey )
Sopranos - Susanne Rydén ,Monika Mauch , Hedwig Westhoff-Düppmann; Altos - Elisabeth Popien , Henning Voss; Tenors Hans Jörg Mammel, Wilfried Jochens, Henning Kaiser; Basses - Stephan Schreckenberger, Wolf Matthias Friedrich, Sebastian Noack
Rec: February 2002, St. Ostag church, Neustadt-Mandesloh.
HARMONIA MUNDI HMC 901783-84 [152 min.]


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The blurb on the back of this disc sums up what it is quite well: "If Bach had not lovingly preserved the works of his forefathers, we would know almost nothing about them. His collection, known since the eighteenth century as the 'Altbachisches Archiv', was published for the first time in 1935. The original manuscripts, lost during the Second World War, were recently located in the Archives in Kiev. Here now is a recording of the complete collection."

This is indeed a unique discovery, and one that sheds a great deal of light on Johann Sebastian Bach's forefathers and the musical heritage he followed. Bach was naturally the natural follower of this vast family of musicians, and, while some of his ancestors' music is know and has been recorded, this is the first recording in extenso of Bach's own personal heritage, the actual works that he knew and, perhaps, studied and even performed.

This is a cornucopia of works, diverse and varied, both in type and in style. With arias, motets, laments and cantatas. The set shows the influences that affected Bach, and, in a way, the genetic material he inherited. It's a mixed bag, with works ranging from excellent to barely interesting; not all these pieces merit the attention they have been given.

This disc is lovingly recorded and performed. Cantus Cölln, a group with experience in recording and performing vocal works, especially madrigals, as well as other recordings of Bach and similar baroque music, has a perfect sound. The voices both stand out individually and meld together as a unit. The recording is exceptional, and the sound of each work is near-perfect.

Some of the works are beautiful: one such work is the cantata Meine Freundin, Du ist schön by Johann Christoph Bach, which closes out the first disc. This is the longest work here at over 23 minutes, and it includes some wonderful sections that are closer to a motet; in fact, the accompaniment of the soloists is often minimal, though certain sections do make greater use of the orchestra.

Sadly many of the tracks are just uninteresting, and even, at times, unmelodic. The lament Wie bist du denn, o Gott in Zorn, by Johann Christoph Bach, one of the longest works in this disc, is one such example: lugubrious, depressing, and monotonous, this work is truly not one I would like to listen to at all often. Sure, it is a lament, and is therefore supposed to be depressing, but the melodic material of the vocalist is so bad that it is painful to listen to. (Note that, in spite of this, the performance is excellent, with the occasional appearance of an attractive violin obbligato.)

I don't want to pick on Johann Christoph Bach, but another of his works, the motet Unseres Herzens Freude, fits partly into this category as well. While it opens with an interesting use of percussion and trumpets, coupled with voices, to sing out in a jubilatory fashion, it then moves into a section where the same phrase is repeated several times, too many times. If I were listening to this on an LP I would have gone to check my turntable to see if it was skipping.

I feel that I'm being unfair; after all, many others who have listened to this disc have enjoyed the music much more than I. Do note that, in spite of my reservations concerning the actual music, the performances and recording are excellent.

This compendium of works by Johann Sebastian Bach's ancestors is a valuable document contributing to our understanding of the great lineage of the Bach family. While some of the music is uninteresting, the performances are as good as they could be.

Kirk McElhearn

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