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Masaaki Suzuki & Bach Collegium Japan
Cantatas Vol. 31
Cantatas BWV 91, BWV 101, BWV 121, BWV 133

C-31

J.S. Bach: Cantatas Vol. 31 - BWV 91, 101, 121, 133

 

Cantatas BWV 91 [15:32], BWV 101 [26:15], BWV 121 [16:42], BWV 133 [17:35]

Masaaki Suzuki

Bach Collegium Japan, Concerto Palatino

Soprano: Yukari Nonoshita; Counter-tenor: Robin Blaze; Tenor: Gerd Türk; Bass: Peter Kooy

BIS 1481

Sep 2004

SACD / TT: 77:25

Recorded at the Kobe Shoin Women's University Chapel, Japan.
See: Cantatas Vol. 31 - conducted by Masaaki Suzuki
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BCJ/Suzuki 31

Thomas Shepherd wrote (July 19, 2006):
As with the rest of the series, vol 31 is impressive. Its the immaculate rendition of the music that gives this series the authoritative edge over the competitors. I am collecting both this series and the Gardiner. From a patriotic point of view I should be supporting the Gardiner I suppose, but IMO Suzuki's style generally appears to be rather more self-effacing. But that's an extremely subjective response! Half way through the series it is tempting to say the sound that BCJ makes is a little bland, yet it is so perfectly executed that the minor sameness of style and performance is not really significant. IMHO it's a reference set for this epoch as Harnoncourt/ Leonhardt, Richter and Rilling were previously.

To my mind the high point of this CD is BWV 101. It was a revelation from beginning to end. In the last round of discussions, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV101-D.htm Thomas Braatz was anxious that there were no recordings of the second movement, the Tenor aria with flute (the original instrument for this movement). Previous recordings have used a violin. Let us hope Thomas is content with the gentle playing of Liliko Maeda. The flute emphasises what a sublimy melancholic and lovely movement it is. However the great revelation in this cantata is the duet "Gedenk an Jesu bittern Tod!" which is another of those masterpieces hidden in the cantatas. Another movement for the top draw.

It may be the time of year - July - but I'm not really in the mood to listen carefully to the other Cantatas on this CD. They are all for Christmas-tide. So on the shelf till then. At least we are back to a full CD of the cantatas with vol 31 after the aberration of vol 30.

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 20, 2006):
Thomas Shepherd wrote:
< As with the rest of the series, vol 31 is impressive. >
I am a bit behind schedule, just in receipt of Suzuki 23, for some reason unavailable for a time at amazon.com. It does contain the current discussion cantata, BWV 178, as well as the previous four sundays, more or less chronological (I think one skip).

The Suzuki series is indeed impressive, it was the enthusiasm of BCW posts that convinced me to take a chance at, what for me, are relatively high prices, earlier this year.

I plan to add some comments re BWV 178, and some of the other recent discussion cantatas of v. 23 as well (all outstanding). Specifics re Suzuki are notably absent in the weekly discussions for these cantatas. Perhaps you could share your opinions, either before or after I do?

In any case , thanks for the enthusiasm, contagious, and deserved!

Eric Bergerud wrote (July 20, 2006):
[To Thomas Shepherd] I can't fault anyone for buying Suzuki. I have half a dozen of his CDs and like them all. I really like the engineering - the gents at BIS get a lovely sound out of that university chapel employed.

That said, my Koopman collection has just spawned another volume. It's #7 but I don't buy in order, rather what's on sale, going on the relatively safe assumption that there are no bad cantatas. Now I already have at least two performances for each cantata - not a large collection for some on the list but probably adequate for most sane people. (I only have one Tilge, Hochster, Meine Sunden, BWV 1083 and keep my eyes open for another because I really like it. Fortunately, Syste Buwalda and Majon Strijk are both in fine form on Leusink's recording, so the need isn't desperate.) But the more I listen to Koopman the more I like him. The reason, I suspect, is simple enough. His cycle is the only one that employs period instruments and a mezzo instead of a countertenor. That doesn't make it better than my others, but it does make it significantly different. Anyway, it's a good excuse to keep buying cantatas. (Now if Gardiner would make up his mind on the issue, maybe I'd pick up more of his.)

Uri Golomb wrote (July 20, 2006):
Eric Bergerund wrote:
"Now if Gardiner would make up his mind on the issue [countertenors vs. contraltos], maybe I'd pick up more of his."
I think he's already made up his mind on that a long time ago: use a good alto ("good" as defined, presumably, by Gardiner himself), regardless of whether it's a contralto or a counter-tenor. In his SMP (BWV 244), he actually used both, in different arias. in the Pilgrimage, I suppose availability was also an issue: he needed a good singer every week!

In general, I tend to agree with Gardiner's approach (and Herreweghe's, and Koopman's too, in principle: he used to employ both countertenors and contraltos, though in recent volumes he has indeed stuck to contraltos). Some of my favourite altos are counter-tenors; so are some of my least favourite. Some of my favourite altos are contraltos; so are some of my least favourite. I'll admit that a bad countertenor usually irks me more than a bad contralto, but that's just a personal thing. When it comes to the good ones, it makes no difference to me -- a good singer is a good singer.

I'm sure you'll be able to find Gardiner volumes featuring only contraltos "Problem" is, of course, that each Gardiner album usually includes two concerts -- so you might end up with different genders on each CD... But you can easily check it volume by volume.

Eric Bergerud wrote (July 21, 2006):
Uri Golomb wrote:
< I think he's already made up his mind on that a long time ago: use a good alto ("good" as defined, presumably, by Gardiner himself), regardless of whether it's a contralto or a counter-tenor. In his SMP, he actually used both, in different arias. in the Pilgrimage, I suppose availability was also an issue: he needed a good singer every week! 'm sure you'll be able to find Gardiner volumes featuring only contraltos. "Problem" is, of course, that each Gardiner album usually includes two concerts -- so you might end up with different genders on each CD... But you can easily check it volume by volume. >
Do want to stress I've got nothing against counter tenors. (I sure have nothing against Gardiner: I have all of Archiv CDs and his version of all of the larger Bach choral works: I really like his SJP (BWV 245). They fit right in with a small army of OR&R recordings of Beethoven, Berlioz etc.) I just have a whole lot of cantatas with them singing the alto parts of which Bach wrote many. One certainly gets a different sound with a mezzo and that's the type of performance I don't have. Hence, I've been buying Koopman. Koopman uses counter tenors in the choir, so tis obviously a matter of musical interpretation from his point of view, not some kind of dislike of the form. When you get down to it, there are some other good reasons too. Koopman is a wonderful conductor and has some very fine players and singers. You could say that too about Suzuki and/or Gardiner. Cantata lovers have it pretty good right now overall I'd say. (Now if we could just get one of the OVPP ensembles to give it a try with a boy soprano or alto...just once.)

Harry W. Crosby wrote (July 22, 2006):
[To Eric Bergerud] Apropos Eric Bergerud's remarks about the Suzuki series, and opinions from others of you pro and con the other conductors making Bach cantata recordings, I would like to add a view of my own. I am not a musician nor even an amateur musicologist, my position vis-a-vis all this could be likened fairly to that old line, "I don't know anything about Art, but I do know what I like."

So, looking at my inventory of my own modest collection, some 150 cantatas on about 85 disks, I learn that my preferences are somewhat scattered -- no conductor has a large edge (and only Koopman is largely precluded from my choices). In short, where I have or have had two or more performances of the same cantata, Suzuki has prevailed 28 times, Gardiner 15, Herreweghe 14, Rotzsch 10, and Koopman only 4. The Herreweghe figure is misleading, however. He has recorded fewer than the three involved in complete sets, and he has actually been my choice over anyone in 14 of 20 comparisons, a higher percentage than any of the others. My remaining disks are scattered among work by Rilling, Junghanel, Leonhardt, Beringer, and Coin, none on more than 4 cantatas.

Rotzch and Rilling seem out of place on my list (since I am fussy as hell about sound), but each brings something so far irreplaceable to my taste: Rotzsch brings a spirit to some works that I find so appealing that all ideas of original instruments, types of voices, etc., take a back seat. To me, his do of BWV 71 is the ideal example. Bach was in his early 20s, he had a great opportunity in a basically secular situation, a great commission, and a large audience. Purists may argue that Rotzsch's vision is larger than life, but I can imagine that Bach would have been thrilled. So there.

Rilling brings singers I cannot live without. Perhaps to my detriment, I cannot get past, for example, Arleen Auger. But don't get me wrong; nobody's got a monopoly on anything. When I hear Katharine Fuge singing the soprano aria in BWV 105, or Greta de Reyghere in BWV 202, I think I've died and gone to heaven.

Some critics, some of this Bach-Cantata fraternity, seem to find more consistency than I do in the work of most conductors and groups. I'll prefer Gardiner to all in one performance, and, next time out, find him guilty of what I call "a Guiness Book of World Records complex," the fastest tempi yet committed to disk.

So, all I know how to do is listen on, make comparisons, and weed out losers. Bach-Cantatas.com has helped me immeasurably by making me aware of the existence of recordings I knews not of, and offering provocative opinions from a slew of fellow Bach lovers far better qualified than I. But, in the end, it's still up to me.

Thanks for this forum!

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 26, 2006):
Harry W. Crosby wrote:
< The Herreweghe figure is misleading, however. He has recorded fewer than the three involved in complete sets, and he has actually been my choice over anyone in 14 of 20 comparisons, a higher percentage than any of the others. >
I do not have any numbers to compare, but my impression of the Herreweghe recordings matches yours. I have been intent on hearing more of them, and when I do, Herreweghe has something special to convey.

Ralph Johansen wrote (July 27, 2006):
Harry W. Crosby wrote:
< The Herreweghe figure is misleading, however. He has recorded fewer than the three involved in complete sets, and he has actually been my choice over anyone in 14 of 20 comparisons, a higher percentage than any of the others. >
My musical background includes parents whose interests and performances included the sacred repertory, and the experience of singing in a boys and mens choir from age 8 -- otherwise I'm an untrained, appreciative listener. Certainly feel as you do about preference for Herreweghe's cantata recordings. Graceful, lilting, sensitive and intuitive readings, all of that -- whether too fast or facile to some listeners, not so for me at all. Suzuki too, of course. Herreweghe had obviously evolved his own concepts working with Leonhardt and Harnoncourt, the Vienna Concentus Musicus and Koopman as well, and I appreciate his decision to record just those Bach vocal works that he found interesting.

(Aside: Has anyone heard Hermann Max's performances of Johann Ludwig Bach's Motets? Described as "rather homespun" by some in the galant period which followed him according to the notes but to me delightful, seemingly derived from a somewhat earlier, I would guess probably even more starkly chiliastic period -- like Schutz many years before him. Apparently, J.S. had also liked the compositions of this contemporary distant cousin from Thal and Meiningen enough to collect and perform some of them. A hilarious if maybe seriously intended painting of a sermonizing true believer on the cover of this cd.)

Eric Bergerud wrote (July 27, 2006):
[To Ralph Johansen] I like Herreweghe also and consider that wonderful 4CD set reissued by Virgin for $16 which includes BWV 39, BWV 73, BWV 93, BWV 105, BWV 107, BWV 131, BWV 233, BWV 234, BWV 236 and BWV 238 to be one of the best "Bang for the Bach" offers out there. However, I wouldn't single him out from the other wonderful ensembles doing cantatas. Gardiner has more panache, Suzuki, on a good day, equals his craftsmanship and sports the best engineering out there. Harnoncourt is on a different planet and can't be compared. Actually I'm glad I wouldn't have to do a blind taste test between Herreweghe and Koopman. Their approach strikes me as having much in common. Maybe I got off on the wrong foot. My first Heereweghe CD was Beethoven's 9th which I found a dud especially when compared to Gardiner's. That said, I have several of his cantatas and they certainly get played.

 

Masaaki Suzuki: Short Biography | Bach Collegoim Japan
Recordings of Vocal Works:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Recordings of Instrumental Works
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Cantatas:
Suzuki - Vol. 2 | Suzuki - Vol. 5 | Suzuki - Vol. 8 | Suzuki - Vol. 9 | Suzuki - Vol. 10 | Suzuki - Vol. 11 | Suzuki - Vol. 12 | Suzuki - Vol. 13 | Suzuki - Vol. 14 | Suzuki - Vol. 15 | Suzuki - Vol. 16 | Suzuki - Vol. 17 | Suzuki - Vol. 18 | Suzuki - Vol. 19 | Suzuki - Vol. 20 | Suzuki - Vol. 21 | Suzuki - Vol. 22 | Suzuki - Vol. 23 | Suzuki - Vol. 24 | Suzuki - Vol. 25 | Suzuki - Vol. 26 | Suzuki - Vol.. 27 | Suzuki - Vol. 28 | Suzuki - Vol. 29 | Suzuki - Vol. 30 | Suzuki - Vol. 31 | Suzuki - Vol. 38 | Suzuki Secular - Vol. 1
Other Vocal Works:
BWV 232 - M. Suzuki | BWV 243 - M. Suzuki | BWV 244 - M. Suzuki | BWV 245 - M. Suzuki | BWV 248 - M. Suzuki
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Bachís Clavier-Ubung III from Masaaki Suzuki | Bach Harpsichord Discs from Hill and Suzuki | Bachís French Suites from Suzuki | Review: Partitas by Suzuki [McElhearn] | Suzukiís Partitas [Henderson] | Suzukiís Goldberg Variations
Discussions of Instrumental Recordings:
Partitas BWV 825-830 - played by M. Suzuki
Table of recordings by BWV Number

Conductors of Vocal Works: A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z | Singers & Instrumentalists

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