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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Cantatas, Vol. 53: Cantatas from Leipzig 1730s-1740s

In allen meinen Taten, BWV 97 (1734) [25:05]
Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 177 (1732) [23:01]
Es ist das Heil uns kommen her, BWV 9 (1732/35) [18:28]
Hana Blažíková (soprano); Robin Blaze (counter-tenor); Gerd Türk (tenor); Peter Kooij (bass)
Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
rec. February 2012, Kobe Shoin Women’s University Chapel, Japan.
Hybrid Disc (SACD Surround/SACD Stereo/CD Stereo)
BIS-SACD-1991 [67:37]

Suzuki and Bach Collegium Japan started their complete cycle of the J.S. Bach cantatas in 1995. There are approaching 200 church cantatas and Suzuki is now well into the home stretch having reached volume 53 with this release: a collection of three church chorale cantatas from Leipzig during the period 1732/35. 

The Bach Collegium Japan is renowned as Japan’s leading period instrument ensemble applying its collective historically informed knowledge of sacred baroque music and specialising in J.S. Bach. The regular venue for this cycle is the Shoin Women’s University Chapel in Kobe.
 
By the time these cantatas came to be written Bach had completed his annual cycle of cantatas. This meant that he only wrote cantatas intermittently; maybe to plug gaps or for special occasions. These three works are classified as chorale cantatas as they are based on well known hymns. 

In allen meinen Taten
(In everything that I do), BWV 97 was written in 1734 but nothing else is known of its origins or purpose. The hymn Bach employs is still sung today. Unusually it is cast in nine movements and the exultant opening Chorus is written in the manner of a French overture. Each of the four soloists have an aria and there is also a splendid duet in verse 7 for soprano and bass with the fresh and bright sounding soprano of Hana Blažíková contrasting marvellously with Peter Kooij’s rich steady bass. Best of all in verse 4 is the extended tenor aria sung by Gerd Türk to an accompanying violin solo. Türk’s vivid and flexible tenor sounds most attractive and copes splendidly with the technical challenges of the part. 

Composed in 1732 the five movement Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (I call to you, Lord Jesus Christ) was intended for the fourth Sunday after Trinity. The hymn on which it is based is still admired nowadays and was written by Johann Agricola, a friend and pupil of Martin Luther. There are splendid arias each for alto, soprano and tenor. I especially enjoyed the verse 2 alto aria accompanied by basso continuo with counter-tenor Robin Blaze in expressive, beautifully controlled voice. Also appealing is the verse 3 soprano aria delightfully rendered with considerable purity by Blažíková accompanied by a reedy oboe da caccia and basso continuo.
 
The final Es ist das Heil uns kommen her (Salvation has come here) was written some time between 1732/35 for the sixth Sunday after Trinity to cover a gap in the church choral calendar year. Containing a text by Paul Speratus, a contemporary of Martin Luther, the hymn remains significant today in the German Evangelical Church. I enjoyed the effervescent and summery opening chorus with its fine blend of vocal and instrumental forces. Although the tenor has a fine aria in movement 3 the highlight is the lovely, airy duet for soprano and alto with Blažíková and Blaze accompanied by transverse flute, oboe d'amore and basso continuo.

The soloists blend delightfully with what is an impressively unified chorus. It almost goes without saying how well the instrumentalists of the Bach Collegium Japan respond. Suzuki brings everything together in masterly fashion. 

For those who are interested in these things the admirable BIS booklet notes state that the music on this hybrid Super Audio CD can be played back in Stereo (CD and SACD) as well as in 5.0 Surround sound (SACD). I played this SACD on my standard player and although the sound from the church acoustic is just a touch bright for my taste the overall quality is satisfying. The level of performance consistency of this BIS series is nothing short of remarkable. It really is hard to find fault when this music is presented in such an exemplary manner.
 
Michael Cookson    

Masterwork Index: Bach cantatas

Review index: Bach Collegium Japan on BIS

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