Philippe Herreweghe & Collegium Vocale Gent
"Wir danken dir, Gott"
Cantatas BWV 29, BWV 119 & BWV 120
To the glory of God and the Burgomaster... (BWV 29, 119 & 120)Jane Newble wrote (April 3, 2000):
"Wir danken dir, Gott"
Has anyone else heard this wonderful new CD by Herreweghe yet? BWV 120, BWV 119 and BWV 29, all written for the renewal of town councils. I received it this morning, and it is an instant hit. I suppose it would be, since it's Herreweghe. But seriously, it is delightful. It starts off with the quiet, reflective aria "Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille...", not for very long, because the "Jauchzet, ihr erfreuten Stimmen..." sets the tone for most of the rest of the cantatas. Lots of trumpets and timpani, ending in triumphant hallelujahs. The Sinfonia of BWV 29 is stunning. Herreweghe in top form. The soloists are: Deborah York, Ingeborg Danz, Mark Padmore and of course Peter Kooy. HMC901690
The new HerreweghePatrik Enander wrote (May 9, 2000):
Has anyone bought it yet? I listened to it in my CD store yesterday, but since this is of those months... I didn't buy it. But it sounded excellent, Mark Padmore seemed to be in very good shape As you all know, Herreweghe is my man and I will buy it eventually but I suspect that some of you hard-core Bach-lovers will snap it up before I do.
Jane Newble wrote (May 9, 2000):
I raved about it on the list a month ago. It's wonderful. As soon as you can, get it!
Piotr Jaworski wrote (July 5, 2000):
Did I miss something?
Correct me, please, if I'm wrong - but as far as I remember none even mentioned the latest Herreweghe recording with Bach Leipzig cantatas - BWV 29, BWV 119 & BWV 120 (Harmonia Mundi HMC 901690).
It is wonderful recording, especially important for me that contains my favorite passages from B minor Mass (in BWV 29 & BWV 120).
What's up - is Poland so lucky, that most of the new releases reach this market before they reach any other?
Or maybe the recording is simply not worth of our attention? (!)
Galina Kolomietz wrote (July 5, 2000):
(To Piotr Jaworski) Matthew mentioned it way before it hit the shelves. If memory serves, his opinion was generally very high. Lucky music critics like Matthew get access to CD's earlier than the rest of us ordinary mortals. I certainly think it's a great CD.
Johan van Veen wrote (July 5, 2000):
(To Piotr Jaworski) I have that CD since a couple of months and planned to write about it, but as I had lots of other things to do I forgot all about it. It is a very interesting CD, since it contains three so-called "Ratswechsel"-cantatas, which for some reason seem to be not very popular among conductors and CD-companies. But this CD shows that these cantatas are great. Maybe it is useful to quote the explanation from the booklet on the subject of "Ratswechsel". So I have scanned it for those who don't have that CD (yet).
"During his brief sojourn at Mühlhausen Bach had already had occasion to compose two cantatas for the renewal of the town council. The first of them (Gott ist mein Konig BWV 71) is the only cantata we know that was published during Bach’s lifetime (1708), while we do not even know the literary incipit of the second, although it was printed by the local publisher Tobias David Bruckner in 1709. It was in Leipzig, however, that the Thomas Kantor regularly worked on the production of cantatas destined for performance during the liturgical service on the occasion of the opening of the sessions of the Municipal Council. The head of the civic administration was the consul or burgomaster (mayor) who enjoyed the prerogative of 'regens' and bore the title (granted in 1711) of 'comes palatinus caesareus'. He had two deputies, or 'proconsules'. Every St Bartholomew’s Day (24 August) one of these burgomasters came into power by rotation for a period of one year. The municipal council ('Rat') was composed of thirty members elected for life and divided into three sections of ten members; each section, presided over by one of the three burgo-masters, deliberated — also in rotation — for a period of a year at a time. In practice, therefore, one of the three sections was “in session” while the other two were “in retirement” excepting when the importance of the deliberation was such that it was felt necessary to convoke all three of them in a plenary session. The nomination of the Thomas Kantor was regarded as one of these “important deliberations”. The ceremony of the installation of the section of the Council whose turn it was to govern the city took place at 7 a.m. on the Monday following St Bartholomew’s Day in the Church of St Nicholas (the principal church of the town and the seat of the ecclesiastic superintendent). This was followed in the early afternoon by the solemn investiture of the ten councilors, which took place in the municipal council chamber. Generally about a week before these solemnities the subject of the sermon (based on a particular passage from the Bible) and the Kirchenmusik to be performed on the occasion were entered in the communal registers. But the registers for the years 1723-1728 and 1744 mention only the subjects of the sermons, but not the music, so that we do not know for certain whether it was Bach who always produced the music destined for this particular liturgical service." Maybe the fact that most people don't exactly know what the "Ratswechsel" means is the main reason for almost neglecting these cantatas.
As I said, the music is great. I am not that positive about the performance, though. Since some years Herreweghe's performances are too smooth for my taste, with too much legato, and without the sharp edges I always admired in the past. He sometimes chooses the wrong soloists, and in this case I am not very happy with the contralto Ingeborg Danz and the tenor Mark Padmore. Danz is exactly the kind of voice, which strengthens my prejudice against contraltos. Her articulation isn't good enough to realize the instrumental coloraturas in the opening aria of BWV 120. I am not a great admirer of Padmore anyway, but I think he is using too much vibrato, and I believe he hasn't quite what is needed to perform Bach's music. Peter Kooy is as good as ever, but hasn't a lot to do. But that's entirely Bach's fault;) The positive surprise is the soprano Deborah York. I think it is the first time I have heard her sing Bach, and I like her performance. In particular the aria from BWV 120 (Heil und Segen) is very well done. Choir and orchestra are good as expected, but the joy of some movements could have been a little stronger. I wouldn't say that they are subdued, but I think they should be somewhat more extraverted.
I have just borrowed from the public library Vol.12 of the cantata series with the Bach Collegium with Cantatas BWV 21 (Leipzig version) and BWV 147. The soloists are Yukari Nonoshita, Robin Blaze, Gerd Türk and Peter Kooy. More about that later.
Galina Kolomietz wrote (July 6, 2000):
< Johan van Veen wrote: Since some years Herreweghe's performances are too smooth for my taste, with too much legato, and without the sharp edges I always admired in the past. >
I like Herreweghe, up to a point. In my heart of hearts, I'm a fan of OVPP (one-to-a-part) Bach. But if it has to be a choral performance, I like Herreweghe's elegance.
< He sometimes chooses the wrong soloists, and in this case I am not very happy with the contralto Ingeborg Danz and the tenor Mark Padmore. >
Herreweghe seems to be quite eclectic in his choice of soloists. E.g., his altos have ranged from the not-so-spectacular Charles Brett and Ingeborg Danz to the quite wonderful Lesne and Scholl. As far as Padmore is concerned: I didn't think his vibrato was over the top, but I have to agree with Johan that there was more vibrato than would be ideal. I like Padmore's tone of voice, and so I've been paying him a lot of attention over the years (perhaps more attention than he deserves, I don't know). I've noticed that his style and manner of singing, as well as his choice of repertory, have changed since about 1996. Some of his recent recordings (e.g., Herreweghe's Hail! Bright Cecilia or Lutheran Masses II) show that he can still turn off his vibrato completely, but he just doesn't seem to care. I'm not too bothered (yet) but my ear will not be forgiving forever.
< The positive surprise is the soprano Deborah York. I think it is the first time I have heard her sing Bach, and I like her performance. >
IMHO, she alone is worth the price of this disc! I think she appeared on some earlier Herreweghe CD's but I was never quite as impressed with her.
Herreweghe's Town Council cantatas
Matthew Westphal wrote (November 30, 2000):
< Armagan Ekici wrote: From Gardiner's pilgrimage my favourites are Volume 4 (Ascension) and Volume 10 (Christmas), but none of these recordings can compete with > Herreweghe's town council cantatas so I for one will not vote for them >
I have to disagree with Armagan on the Herreweghe. Yes, I grant that there is a lot that's very good on that recording: Peter Kooy, Deborah York (Debbie Rules!) and (I must hasten to add, lest Galina come up to New York and scratch my eyes out!) Mark Padmore; what's more, Herreweghe captures the exuberance in Bach's celebratory music much better than he did earlier in his career. But for me, the singing of alto soloist Ingeborg Danz in a crucial flaw. Her vibrato, while very quick, is simply too wide for the job -- not by a large margin, but margin enough. The problem becomes clear right at the beginning of the disc, in the fabulous opening aria of Gott, Man Lobet Dich In Der Stille (BWV 120). Herreweghe takes a nice, quick tempo which suits the aria well, but Danz's vibrato smudges the coloratura. I can hear that she's moving from one pitch to another, but I can't identify the pitches she intends to sing. What's more, when Bach gave the alto soloist a long note to hold amidst all that coloratura, he presumably intended the pitch to remain steady; when Danz sings such a note, it isn't steady - it just keeps fluttering like all the coloratura around it. The bad impression this makes on me might be mitigated if this aria weren't the very first thing on the disc -- but then Danz messes up the end as well, with a reprise of "Alleluia, Stärk und Macht" from BWV 29 that has all the same problems.
Danz is clearly capable of musical nuance; I just feel strongly that her voice is wrong for Bach. (If she sings Brahms and Berlioz for Herreweghe, she'll probably very good indeed.) For me, her work on this disc mars what is otherwise a marvelous performance -- and I find that much more frustrating than a merely bad recording.
Bach 'Installation' Cantatas from HerrewegheDonald Satz wrote (December 11, 2000):
Just the other day, I posted a review of Suzuki's Volume 13 in his series of Bach cantatas on BIS; that disc consisted of infrequently recorded cantatas and was a pleasure to listen to and review.
Philippe Herreweghe, on Harmonia Mundi 901690, also recently recorded three infrequently played cantatas: BWV 29, BWV 119, and BWV 120. The disc has a program in that each of the three was specifically composed to usher in the annual installation of municipal officers in Leipzig. Not bad - imagine yourself being sworn into municipal office with a brand new Bach cantata. These days, you would be lucky to have a Britney Spears tune in the air. How far have we fallen? Don't answer that one.
Actually, this Herreweghe disc is a few months old, but I didn't get into close listening until last night. It's a beauty of a recording. The music, as you might expect, is festive, uplifting, and wonderful.The vocal soloists are very good or better; soprano Deborah York is heavenly, alto Ingeborg Danz is impressive and sensual, tenor Mark Padmore never sounded better, and bass Peter Kooy is his usual excellent self. As for Herreweghe and his orchestra/chorus, they are in top form.
I did make a quick comparison of Herreweghe's BWV 119 with the one from Koopman in his Volume 10 Bach series on Erato. Both are excellent, with the major difference being that Koopman is more solemn; that comes as no surprise.
Don's Conclusion: Buy the Herreweghe recording. It's essential for Bach lovers not allergic to period instruments and is sure to improve your disposition (unless you're always happy).
Philippe Herreweghe: Short Biography | La Chapelle Royale | Collegium Vocale
Recordings: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | General Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Individual Recordings: Cantatas BWV 29, 119 & 120 | Christmas Cantatas from Leipzig - Herreweghe | Weinen Klagen.. Cantata BWV 12, 38 & 75 | BWV 232 - Herreweghe | BWV 244 - Herreweghe | BWV 245 - Herreweghe
Table of recordings by BWV Number