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Bach: Kaffee Kantate / Ton Koopman, Amsterdam Baroque

Release Date: 02/13/2007 
Label:  Challenge   Catalog #: 72280   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Klaus MertensDeborah YorkPaul AgnewEls Bongers,   ... 
Conductor:  Ton Koopman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Amsterdam Baroque OrchestraAmsterdam Baroque Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 6 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BACH Cantatas: No. 211, “Coffee Cantata”; 1 No. 212, “Peasant Cantata”; 2 No. 203 3 Ton Koopman, cond; Anne Grimm (sop); 1 Els Bongers (sop); 2 Paul Agnew (ten); 1 Klaus Mertens (bs); 1–3 Read more class="ARIAL12"> Amsterdam Baroque O & Ch 1,2 (period instruments) CHALLENGE 72280 (65:30)

With the advent of the long-playing record came the revelation that the famous composer, J. S. Bach, begat two sets of Siamese twins. One was a pair of solo cantatas for bass, BWV 56 and 82, which, as far as the recording companies are concerned, are joined at the hip. The second two, similarly conjoined, were composed not by the Leipzig Cantor but by his alter ego, the musical director of Zimmermann’s Coffee Shop concerts. The so-called “Coffee” and “Peasant” cantatas, BWV 211 and 212, respectively, were our hero’s two most unambiguous—and, I must add, successful—attempts at humor.

Existing portraits of Bach, most of dubious authenticity, show a rather stern visage, not surprisingly, since holding a grin while sitting for a portrait has always been impossible. More significantly, Bach, unlike, say, Mozart, was not paid to be funny. Quite the contrary; his employment in the church required at the very least sobriety and, at most, gravitas. His supplementary income came from weddings, funerals, and the occasional birthday tribute to a person of rank, none of which invited levity. Yet, his son, Carl Philippe Emanuel, recalled that members of the clan, his father included, were less than somber at family gatherings. When the occasion merited, conviviality was the order of the day. There’s no documentary proof of this, but it seems highly improbable that Johann Sebastian could have survived his crushing workload, a passel of unruly choirboys, the well-meaning, but often unsympathetic bureaucracy, and a bustling household with eight or so minor offspring—without a sense of humor. Perhaps, under a different set of circumstances, he might have turned out a series of successful comedies. We’ll never know.

The ones that he actually wrote tackle two of the most enduring of comedic situations. The “Peasant Cantata” is all bumpkin humor. Lest we turn up our noses, be aware that our bumpkins no longer hail from Arkansas but may now live in the Borough of Queens. The “Coffee Cantata,” dealing with the ageless conflict between generations, probably retains the greater appeal today. Will sassy, young Lieschen get her daily caffeine fix? I don’t want to ruin your suspense, but when was the last time a comparable fictional contest was resolved in favor of dear old dad? Herr Zimmermann must have loved it.

The filler, Amore traditore , BWV 203, is unusual in Bach’s œuvre , not only for the language (Italian) of the libretto, but also for its extreme economy: its three movements are minimally scored for a bass soloist and a harpsichord.

The performances on the present release were extracted from Volumes 4, 5, and 2 of Koopman’s recently completed Bach cantata edition. Thus, they are more than a decade old but sound brand new. Koopman invests the two amusements with cheerful energy, which earns the disc an easy recommendation, though I still harbor a fondness for a pair of remnants from the early days of period-instruments awareness: Collegium Aurem, with Elly Ameling and Siegmund Nimsgern, for Deutsche Harmonia Mundi; and a two-disc set from Nikolaus Harnoncourt that also includes Cantatas 202 and 209, with Rotraud Hansmann and Max von Egmond, for Teldec. Amore traditore , is another matter, of course, and it is handsomely realized by Koopman’s favorite bass, Klaus Mertens.

The disc comes without texts or translations but with a promise that, if inserted into your PC, it will open up a Web site from which they can be read. I did manage to access the Web site, but I couldn’t find the librettos, even though I assume that they must be there. It wasn’t entirely clear to me whether one can listen to the music and look at the texts at the same time. This modern age!

FANFARE: George Chien
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Works on This Recording

Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht, BWV 211 "Coffee Cantata" by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Klaus Mertens (Bass), Deborah York (Soprano), Paul Agnew (Tenor),
Els Bongers (Soprano), Anne Grimm (Soprano), Ton Koopman (Harpsichord)
Conductor:  Ton Koopman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra,  Amsterdam Baroque Choir
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1734-1735; Leipzig, Germany 
Language: German 
Mer Hahn en neue Oberkeet, BWV 212 "Peasant Cantata" by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Els Bongers (Soprano), Ton Koopman (Harpsichord), Klaus Mertens (Bass)
Conductor:  Ton Koopman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra,  Amsterdam Baroque Choir
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1742; Leipzig, Germany 
Language: German 
Amore traditore, BWV 203 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Klaus Mertens (Bass), Ton Koopman (Harpsichord)
Conductor:  Ton Koopman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: Germany 
Language: Italian 

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