One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Cantatas: Volume 24 Cantatas from Leipzig, 1724: Liebster Gott, wenn werd ich sterben, BWV8ab [17’06]; Allein zu dir, Herr, Jesu Christ, BWV33b [19’11]; Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gott,
BWV113 (ab) Appendix: Liebster Gott, wenn werd ich sterben, BWV8 - Chorus, Liebster Gott, wenn werd ich sterben (second version, 1746/7?) [5’35].
(a)Yukari Nonoshita (soprano);
(b )Robin Blaze (counter-tenor); (b)Gerd Türk (tenor); (b)Peter Kooij (bass); Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
Rec. Kobe Shoin Women’s University Chapel, Japan, 6, 10 Oct 2002. DDD
Texts and translations included. Sponsored by NEC BIS CD-1351 [67’37]


Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS

A magnificent disc. It has been a while since one of BIS’s Japan traversal of the Bach Cantatas came my way (April 2001, to be exact: ). The standard has patently not dropped an inch in the interim if this present offering is anything to go by. Soloists are superb, the chorus magnificently and lucidly blended and accompaniments, be they continuo or orchestral, are ever alive to the twists and turns of Bach’s fertile imagination. A special mention should go to the instrumentalists who provide the obbligati in various arias, and who negotiate their difficulties with aplomb.

All three cantatas come from the year 1724 (August and September). A change in intended playing order and final production seems to have occurred somewhere along the line, for the booklet notes operate on a descending-BWV number basis, the disc itself on an ascending one (with the Appendix tacked on at the end). A shame, as Klaus Hoffmann’s commentaries are commendably detailed, taking in word-painting, scoring and cantata structure as well as underlining various compositional techniques Bach uses, not to mention historical placement. Suzuki himself addresses some musicological issues also.

The first Cantata on display is BWV8, Liebster Gott, wenn wird ich sterben (‘Dearest God, when shall I die’). The text concerns death, initially centring on the all too human concerns of fear of the unknown. This is superseded by realisation that if Jesus calls, who would not go?, and the vanquishing of fears by the thought of standing by Jesus.

The opening chorus is superbly worked by Bach. A duet for Oboi d’amore vies with high flute and horn. Time is of continual importance in this movement, as Bach even imitates in sound a clock (muted upper strings, staccato). Hofmann suggests the 12/8 time signature refers to the 12 hours of the clock; not inconceivable, given Bach’s well-acknowledged concern with matters numerological. All four vocal soloists are active in this cantata. Gerd Türk’s light tenor graces the initial Aria; with its prominent oboe d’amore it makes a timbral link to the opening chorus. Robin Blaze’s brief moment of glory, a recitative lasting 0’55, is memorable for being accompanied by a halo of strings. Yukari Nonoshita reminds us of the purity of her voice and her true intonation. Peter Kooij’s aria ‘Doch weilchet, ihr tollen, vergeblichen Sorgen!’ (‘Yield, you wild, vain sorrows!’) provides the highlight, though. This movement is more care-free than the rest of the Cantata, with light, tripping flute (Liliko Maeda) as the text refers to the protagonist’s aforementioned realisation of Jesus’ joyous call. Kooij has all the right authority and confidence for this aria, not to mention the agility for the more melismatic passages, without sounding at all heavy. The framing choral movements, the second marked explicitly ‘Chorale’, reveal the excellence of the choir in this recording.

The Appendix to this disc presents a second version of the initial chorale of BWV8, possibly dating from 1746/47. Played now in D major, as opposed to E, it sounds a little more muffled - surprisingly, perhaps, given D major’s usual festive sound. Similarly, the flute’s repeated notes sound better (brighter) in E.

The second Cantata, Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV33 (‘In you alone, Lord Jesus Christ’) was written for the thirteenth Sunday after Trinity. A love-thy-neighbour text provides the soil out of which Bach’s inspiration grows. It is immediately more approachable than BWV8, beginning with two oboes chasing each other. Under Suzuki’s direction, this is just so rhythmically alive. In his notes, Hofmann refers to the alto aria, ‘Wie furchtsam wankten meine Schritte’ (‘How fearful was my progress’) as ‘one of the most characteristic movements in all of Bach’s cantatas’. At an extended 7’23, it dwells on the comforting aspects of Jesus. Robin Blaze shades the vocal line extremely personally over a spare accompaniment. Notable also is the duet for tenor and bass, ‘Gott, der du die Liebe heisst’ (‘God, whose name is Love’), a festive minuet whose stylised consonant parallel thirds and sixths would have represented the idea of comforting love. The voices of Gerd Türk and Peter Kooij are spatially separated in this recording, tenor to left; bass to right. Kooij seems somewhat weak, as if not willing to stand up to his part; an unexpected and uncharacteristic happening.

The final Cantata on Volume 24, Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut, BWV113 (‘Lord Jesus Christ, thou greatest good’) was composed for August 20th, 1724 (the eleventh Sunday after Trinity). The text centres around the concept of Jesus’ acceptance of the sinner. The work begins therefore in oppressive mood (i.e. pre-enlightenment of the sinner). The colourings are dark, especially as realised as effectively as here - the notes are quite right to refer to the mood here as of ‘lamenting oppression’; an atmosphere prolonged by the Alto chorale that follows. Robin Blaze intones in blanched voice the chorale text, while the strings wind around it. This is one of the most effective movements on this disc. Blaze’s delivery actually makes it disturbing, and quite rightly given that the first line is by no means unrepresentative: ‘Erbarm dich mein in solcher Lust’ (‘Have mercy on me who am so burdened’). Kooij’s affinity with florid lines comes into its own in his aria, the two oboi d’amore providing a lovely flow of ideas simultaneously. Two other movements make this Cantata a veritable treasure-trove of delights: the flute obbligato of the tenor aria, ‘Jesus nimmt die Sünder an’ (‘Jesus welcomes sinners’: Liliko Maeda again); and the brief yet lissom duet for soprano and alto ‘Ach Herr, mein Gott, vergib mirs doch’ (‘O Lord, my God, forgive me yet’), in which Yukari Nonoshita gets her chance to shine.

In short, this is a very special disc. But then again, from the several volumes I have heard of this series, perhaps the same thing could be said of any given volume. There is much to delight, whatever the case.

Colin Clarke


Visit the Bach Collegium Japan webpage for reviews of other releases in this series

Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.