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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen BWV 51 (1730) [16:35]
Ich habe genug BWV 82a (1727 revised 1730) [24:14]
Mein Herze schwimmt im blut BWV 199 (1714 revised 1723) [22:52]
Natalie Dessay (soprano)
Le Concert d’Astrée/Emmanuelle Haïm
rec. Paroisse Notre-Dame du Liban, January and February 2008
includes 52 minute bonus DVD of footage from the recording sessions in ESTI colour; NTSC 16:9, disc format DVD5, region free.
VIRGIN CLASSICS 5193142 [63:35]
Experience Classicsonline

The three cantatas recorded by Natalie Dessay and Le Concert d’Astrée, directed by Emmanuelle Haïm, are amongst Bach’s most popular. Two points should be noted though. Ich habe genug is heard in its version for soprano and flute whilst the version of Mein Herze schwimmt im blut is the 1723 revision.

On the question of the instrumental tapestry let me first say that Emmanuelle Haïm and her forces have achieved a marvellous balance between exultation and expressive warmth. There are no tempo changes that proved distracting, no supple nuances that prove, on repeated hearing, to be jarring or extraneous to the musical phraseology – I note this because it has sometimes proved to be the case in her recordings, or some that I’ve heard. Instead there is a strength and seriousness of purpose allied to a sure feeling for sonority and textual detail that I find utterly commendable. 

Ich habe genug is better known in its guise for bass and oboe. Here the pure-toned flute, played so deftly by Alexis Kossenko, and Dessay’s intelligence and musicality, her surety in phraseology and in applying apposite weight, bears rich rewards. Both recitatives are well paced and there is great consoling generosity in her singing of the great central aria. It is necessarily, perhaps, less sombre in the soprano than in the bass version, a vision that is imbued with a celestial purity rather than clay-rich nobility. Incidentally I think Hans Hotter himself would have approved of the tempo, which is relaxed, unlike so many period performances, which are – one feels it in one’s bones and sinews – too fast. And I don’t except David Daniels in that either. The one thing I would point out – as an observation, not a criticism – is that the beautifully prepared lead into the B section ushers in a passage that, tempo-wise and expressively, offers little real contrast with the surrounding material. It doesn’t, as it can, offer a revealing shock. It is consonant. Perhaps some listeners will find that disappointing.  So too the final aria – which is moulded into a uniform joy, tracing a journey of refined elation.

Both the other cantatas share the considerable virtues enshrined in the performance of Ich habe genug. The 1730 setting of Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen allows one to hear the excellent trumpet playing of Neil Brough. Dessay’s vaunted virtuosity is more in evidence here where her divisions are put to the test and where her concluding Alleluias bring the work to a resplendent and moving conclusion. Mein Herze schwimmt im blut allows us to bear witness to Dessay’s searing recitative - Ich lege mich in diese Wunden is especially taxing and powerful, though I can imagine some may find it too histrionic. Very occasionally her topmost notes are a fraction pinched but it didn’t for me detract from the strong sense of identification she imparts to the music. One can feel this from the fifty-two minute bonus DVD in which a hand held camera tracks her and the performances through some of the recording footage. At first I thought the gorgeous candles in Paroisse Notre-Dame du Liban were guttering in the dark – until I realised it was Dessay’s extravagantly quick hand gestures. She recites a French translation of the text once more, just before she sings it, to further imprint textual meaning into her performances.

The notes are first class and the recording is really beautifully – clear and not too resonant but with a warm bloom to the sound. Fine engineering work complements excellent, sometimes individual singing.

Jonathan Woolf

see also Review by Margarida Mota-Bull



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