Sigiswald Kuijken & La Petite BandeCantatas 49, BWV 58 & BWV 82
Cantatas by La Petite Bande
Piotr Stanislawski wrote (June 13, 1999):
< Aya wrote: This recording is very good. I bought it around Christmas last year, have been listening to it almost every night before going to bed for the past few months (or I try to), always find something new to be moved. Both the instrumental playing (incl. Marcel Ponseele, Pierre Hantai, and Suzuki Hidemi) and the singing are impressive. Mertens and Argenta - both got gorgeous voices. By all means - if you can buy this for $15 - buy! It's the equivalent of what I pay for lunch (well in Tokyo it is), not very much for something so precious. >
Marcel's Ponseele oboe playing in cantata BWV 82 "Ich habe genung" on this recording is wonderful, almost magic. In fact his playing absorbed my attention more than singing of Klaus Martens in opening movement. The playing of others of La Petite Bande is also very impressive. But my favorite recording of this cantata is La Chapelle Royale - P. Herreweghe with beautiful bass singing of Peter Kooy. His singing - warm, peaceful, spiritual - is very moving. I can hardly imagine the arias "Ich habe genung" and "Schlummert ein" can be sung and played more delightful. This recording "Cantatas for bass" includs two other great bass cantatas: BWV 158 and BWV 56. Nancy Argenta also recorded this cantata with Ensemble Sonniere - M. Huggett on Virgin.
Bradley Lehman wrote (June 15, 2004):
Craig Schweickert wrote: < Nonetheless, the best approach is probably to cherry-pick, filling in any gaps from, say, Suzuki, as the disks are being issued individually. That way you won't miss great one-off discs like Accent ACC 9395 D (BWV 49, BWV 58 and above all BWV 82 with Argenta and Mertens under S. Kuijken) >
That's one of my favorite recordings of *any* Bach cantatas; I bought it while preparing a performance of 49. I even purchased a second copy last year and sent it as an anniversary present to a friend who's a retired professional baritone. The musicianship in that recording is so wonderful, all-around.
Another one not to miss, IMO, is the 34/93/100 by the Windsbach choir et al conducted by Karl-Friedrich Beringer. I got it to hear the alto (a former classmate of mine, back when she was still a piano major and hadn't yet switched to specialty in singing)...but the whole disc is marvelous.
Kenneth Edmonds wrote (June 15, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] Klaus Mertens is one of my favorite Bass Baritones for Bach. I think he is the greatest reason I continue to buy the Koopman set (along with all of the money I have already invested.)
Paul Dirmeikis wrote (June 15, 2004):
[To Kenneth Edmonds] You should also listen to Mertens in Enoch zu Guttenberg's SMP (Farao Classics). He's great again.
Kuijken J.S. Bach: Cantatas BWV 82 · 49 · 58
Like Hubbard wrote (January 18, 2006):
I listened carefully this album and, from a listener's point of view, all of the works included are performed at the highest level of artistry. The soloists, Argenta and Mertens, are both highly competent although they have inherent limitations typical to half-voices. One still misses a strong vibrato-free soprano/basso voice that so many of Bach's vocal works would tremendously benefit of. Nevertheless, Argenta has a very appealing boyish voice and Mertens is, to my knowledge, the best basso used by recent HIP conductors. The orchestra is on the same par with Suzuki's Bach Collegium Japan, which is certainly a distinction. It performs its part with drive and absolute clarity. The chorus sings thankfully NOT OVPP, as in Kuijken's subsequent recordings, and it's as competent as one expects from one of the founding fathers of historically informed performances.
Due to the lack of exceptional bassos among HIP recordings, this one has few worthy competitors. Harnoncourt's approach is good and so is his basso, yet it suffers from poor orchestral playing. The leading oboe is more of a burden than a partener in the first movement. Koopman's performance, using Mertens as well, is very light and unconvincing. Herreweghe is a better proposal, but Kooy has a somewhat infexible voice, unable to cope with the modulations this work requires. Otherwise, orchestral playing is still too light for my liking. Kuijken remains the best option, with exceptional orchestral playing (Ponseele playing the leading oboe) and very fine interpretation by Mertens. Still, Mertens is more of a baritone with regards to his vocal range. I think the notes should be sung with a lower voice. From my experience, whenever Mertens tries to sing low, he becomes inaudible, which is typical of half-voices. So I guess from others' reviews for this cantata, the best propositions are the ones coming from Romantic conductors, using true accomplished bassos. Personally, however, I can't get past these conductors' approach on Bach.
This is a very beautiful cantata, with organ obbligato and plenty of gorgeous movements to explore. The main competitor is an excellent recording by Harnoncourt, with Tachezi playing the organ, Peter Jelosits as soprano and Ruud Van der Meer as basso. Peter Jelosits is the best Bach soprano I've listened to. He is SO much better than Nancy Argenta. Too bad he was employed only in a few cantatas. He has a gorgeous clear tone, exceptional command of his voice and an ability of involvement into the music, all of them untypical to boy voices. A setback to his performance is the constantly poor oboe playing, unlike the one Argenta benefits, which is provided by none other than Marcel Ponseele. Herbert Tachezi's performance on organ is just as excellent, on the same par with Kuijken's also excellent organist. Strings' playing is average and squeaky, unlike the flowing, technically irreproachable, sound of La Petite Bande. The latter's technical superiority is also evident in continuo playing, which intrudes too much into the melody with regards to Harnoncourt's performance. Ruud van der Meer has the voice of a true basso but for what use if he's unable to control it. Mertens, while a baritone, has perfect control in his voice and provides his lines aptly. The dialogue between basso and soprano in the aria and recitative also comes better in Kuijken's recording, same as with the unity of the orchestral playing. The differences of approach in performance must also be weighted, because they are considerable. Kuijken's approach is lighter than Harnoncourt's but more attentive towards detail and technical proficiency. Overall, Kuijken's performance outshines that of Harnoncourt, because in any movement is he less than very good.
This cantata contains IMHO no memorable movements although it is nevertheless pleasant to hear. Mertens, Argenta and La Petite Bande do their jobs as they should. Mertens dialogue with Argenta comes out very well, their voices blending effortlessly. The cis performed exemplarily and the final aria enjoys a very fine performance by Mertens. Compared to Suzuki, Koopman and Herreweghe, it is better, not in the least because the constantly high quality of the soloists (vocal and instrumental) involved.
Sigiswald Kuijken: Short Biography | La Petite Bande
Recordings: Part 1 | Part 2 | General Discussions
Individual Recordings: Cantatas BWV 49, BWV 58 & BWV 82 | Cantatas BWV 9, BWV 94 & BWV 187 | BWV 232 - Kuijken | BWV 244 - Kuijken | Final Review: Kuijken Sonatas and Partitas