Notes and Editorial Reviews
Cantatas Nos. 75
Georg Christoph Biller, cond;
Conrad Zuber (trb);
Stefan Kahle (alt);
Martin Petzold (ten);
Georg Streuber (bs); Thomanerchor Leipzig; Gewandhaus O
RONDEAU 4036 (78:47
Text and Translation)
About a half of Bach’s church cantatas were composed for the long Trinity season, but Cantor Georg Christoph Biller has chosen just two cantatas to represent them. They’re good ones, though—the first (BWV 75) and last (BWV 194) from Bach’s first year in Leipzig. Both are fairly long by Bach-cantata standards, approximately 33 and 42 minutes, respectively. We may infer that Cantata 75 was meant to impress and Cantata 194 was meant to celebrate. Both divided into two parts with a chorale setting concluding each part—two different hymn-style chorales in No. 194, but one adorned chorale reprised in No. 75; its tune also used in a Sinfonia that opens the second Part. (Part 2 of BWV 194 begins with a recitative.) Neither cantata is extravagantly scored—three oboes in Cantata 194; in No. 75 two oboes, oboe d’amore, and a trumpet in the Sinfonia and bass aria.
This disc is not intended to appeal to minimalist purists. The Thomanerchor presently numbers 92 boys, ages nine to 18 (Wikipedia). Whether all sing in concerts I can’t say, but those who do will need a pile of vocal scores. Their house band is no less than the celebrated Gewandhaus Orchestra, perhaps somewhat reduced. Biller’s target audience—listeners who enjoy the ambience of a cathedral space, filled by a large but well trained choir, backed by a superb modern-instrument ensemble—will not be disappointed. His adult soloists, including Stephan Kahle (listed above as an alto but more likely a countertenor), are equal to their tasks. The unknowns in the equation are, of course, the treble soloists. Thomaner Friedrich Praetorius scores well in his aria in Cantata 75, but the soprano solos in No. 194 are divided among three boys: Praetorius, Conrad Zuber, and Johann Beyer. No reason is given, but I suspect that Biller chose not to overtax any one of his charges in these live performances. Zuber can seem a little insecure in handling the rapid passage work in his aria, and Beyer seems to tire during his lengthy (10.5 minute) duet with bass Georg Streuber, but that is sometimes true of adult soloists, too. Both are more than acceptable. Your taste (or distaste) for boy sopranos may color your comfort with these performances. As usual, Biller introduces each cantata with an unrelated
hymn. Biller’s direction is, as always, straightforward and insightful, making this volume a worthy addition to his ongoing series.
FANFARE: George Chien
Works on This Recording
O lux beata trinitas by Anonymous
Venue: Thomaskirche Leipzig
Length: 1 Minutes 44 Secs.
Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest, BWV 194 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Georg Christoph Biller
Written: 1724; Leipzig, Germany
Venue: Thomaskirche Leipzig
Length: 40 Minutes 19 Secs.
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