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CD: Crotchet


Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Sacred Arias and Cantatas
Mass in B Minor BWV 232: Qui sedes [4:16]; Agnus Dei [5:17]
St John Passion BWV 245: Von den Stricken [4:46]; Es ist vollbracht [5:14]
St Matthew Passion BWV 244: Du lieber Heiland do [5:52]; Buss und Reu [4:18]; Erbarme dich [6:46]; Erbarm es Gott! [1:01]; Können Tränen meiner Wangen [6:57]
Cantata BWV 82a: Ich habe genug [6:48]; Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen [10:04]
Cantata BWV 170: Vergnügte Ruh, beliebete Seelenlust [5:40]
Cantata BWV 208: Schafe Können sicher weiden [4:20]
David Daniels (counter-tenor)
The English Concert/Harry Bicket
rec. 13-17 September 2007, St Jude-on-the-Hill Church, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London DDD
German texts, English and French translations included
VIRGIN CLASSICS 5190372 [66:48]
Experience Classicsonline

I first encountered the artistry of David Daniels though his exceptional 1998 Virgin Veritas CD of Handel operatic arias (5453262). Since then I’ve come to regard him as one of the finest counter-tenors of his generation, the possessor of a beautiful voice and a superb technique. This new Bach recital confirms that view. Incidentally, these same performers included several of these pieces in a recent London concert that was favourably reviewed by my colleague Robert Costin.
The arias have been well chosen to include the plums from Bach’s major choral works and some cantata excerpts. ‘Qui sedes’, with which proceedings open, flows beautifully, which is a tribute to Harry Bicket as well as to Daniels. The other excerpt from the B Minor Mass, ‘Agnus Dei’, is deeply felt and Daniels’ superb breath control enables him to spin long, eloquent lines.
 Just as deeply felt is ‘Es ist vollbracht’. From Bach’s other surviving Passion setting comes the wonderful ‘Erbarme dich’. Here, as elsewhere, Daniels sings with a gloriously full tone and his singing of this poignant aria is expressive and eloquent.
The two arias from Cantata 82 are included and since these account for the bulk of the cantata part of me wishes that the whole work had been given, not least because the couple of recitatives from the St. Matthew Passion that are included show that Daniels is excellent in recitative. Daniels sings the fine aria from which the cantata takes its name very well, though in this work my personal preference is to hear either a female alto or a bass – the same applies to ‘Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen’.
In the whole recital I have but one interpretative niggle and that concerns the heavenly aria ‘Vergnügte Ruh, beliebete Seelenlust’. The first line, as translated in the booklet, speaks of “Contented rest, beloved inner joy.” For me, the pace of this performance is just a bit too fleet. I know that so much of Bach’s music is founded on dance and the last thing one wants is for this aria to drag but here there’s a little too much haste so that the aria is indeed joyful but I miss a sense of repose. Having said that, the singing is poised and lovely.
The artistry of David Daniels gives great pleasure throughout this disc. Equally pleasing are the accompaniments provided by Bicket and the OAE. The instrumental obbligati are all of a very high standard and though it’s slightly invidious to single out individuals I’d commend especially oboist Katharina Sprekelsen in ‘Qui sedes’, ‘Ich habe genug’ and ‘Vergnügte Ruh, beliebete Seelenlust’. Also demanding a mention are Jonathan Manson, who plays the gamba part in ‘Es ist vollbracht’, and Nadja Zweiner, the violinist in ‘Erbarme dich’.
The recorded sound is excellent as are the notes by Simon Heighes.
This is a fine disc. Admirers of David Daniels will need no prompting from me to invest but anyone who has not yet encountered this young American singer and acquires this recital will soon understand why his stock is so high.
John Quinn


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