Peter Bright wrote (August 4, 2008):
Ahoy there! I thought I'd paste my draft review (long overdue) for vol. 38 of Suzuku/BCJ's cantata series just on the off chance that a couple of people out there in the ether might want to take a look...
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Cantatas, Vol. 38
Falsche Elt, dir trau ich nicht, BWV 52 (1726) [14:18]
Ich habe genung, BWV 82 (1727) [22:10]
Ich armer Mensch, ich Sündenknecht, BWV 55 (1726) [14:23]
Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid, BWV 58 (1727) [13:54]
Carolyn Sampson (soprano), Robin Blaze (alto), Gerd Türk (tenor), Peter Kooij (bass)
Bach Collegium Japan / Masaaki Suzuki
rec. Septemer, 2006, Kobe Shoin Women's University Chapel, Japan
The jewel of this latest volume is the celebrated cantata Ich habe genung / genug (I am content, BWV 82) describing the story of old man Simeon's meeting with Christ in the temple. The work also appears to have been a favourite of Bach himself. The three majestic arias were first written for bass (as performed here) and four year later for soprano. First performed in February 1727 for the feast of Purification, Bach returned to the work at several points, making final revisions just two years before he died.
This is a beautifully judged and warmly recorded performance, featuring Peter Kooij taking on the role of Simeon, joyfully anticipating death after finding consolation in Christ. It is the third recording of Kooij in this work, with his excellent performance under Philippe Herreweghe still available on Harmonia Mundi [HAR 1951365]. Although both recordings have near identical running times, the new performance is imbued with a greater serenity and easy confidence that I find particularly convincing.
Those not yet familiar with Falsche Welt, dir trau ich nicht (False world, I do not trust you, BWV 52) may nevertheless immediately recognise the opening Sinfonia – it is an early version of the first movement of Brandenburg Concerto no. 1. Although lacking the violino piccolo part of its later incarnation, it provides a tremendously involving start to the cantata. Nevertheless, I am not convinced that it 'fits' with the rest of the work, which is generally marked by an austere and damning text ('Here I must live among scorpions and among
false serpents...'). Perhaps this lack of perceived continuity partly explains why it is rarely recorded except in complete cantatas projects. It's well performed here, with the second aria particularly well served by Carolyn Sampson's expressive singing supported by woodwind and strings.
BWV 55 is another relatively unknown work, and the only surviving cantata written by Bach for solo tenor. Given that much of the vocal work requires singing at the top end of the tenor's scale, it can stretch all but the most flexible of soloists. I am happy to report, however, that Gerd Türk has risen admirably to the challenge, and joins the likes of Peter Schreier, Ernst Heifliger and Nicolai Gedda as 'owners' of this cantata. If I had to single out key movements they would be the lilting first aria, marked by feelings of sadness and lamentation and the concluding strophe, also heard the following year in the St Matthew Passion.
The final work on this disc is BWV 58, optimistically entitled Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid (Ah God, how much unhappiness, BWV 58). The text reflects on the flight into Egypt and the Massacre of the Innocents, re-interpreting it as a fight for survival of the soul against spiritual enemies. Written for two voices (ably performed here by Sampson and Kooij), Bach fashions a beautiful dialogue between God and the soul. The central movement, an aria for soprano, deserves special mention for Sampson's expressive singing and the plaintive solo violin work. The final movement, a duet in chorale fantasia form, rounds off another excellent edition to this series.
The packaging is not quite up to the usual standards, with BWV 58 given the wrong title on the back of the CD case – a small but sloppy mistake. The quality of the performances, however, easily match the rest of the series – and the recorded sound is superb.