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Bach: Cantatas Bwv 202, 82 & 32 / Labelle, Sylvan, Et Al

Release Date: 07/25/2006 
Label:  Sarasa   Catalog #: 1   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Dominique LabelleSanford SylvanKrista RiverFrank Kelley
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sarasa Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Chances are, you’ve never heard of the Sarasa Ensemble, much less heard an actual performance by the group, which consists of about 60 musicians from Europe, Canada, and the US who configure and gather as needed to perform a broad repertoire that ranges from Baroque to Romantic. This is a classic good news/bad news scenario, with a twist. The bad news – for you, that is – is that the musicians on call are top-flight artists, and you haven’t gotten to hear them. In the current album, for example, the names of violinist Alison Bury and harpsichordist Maggie Cole, to mention just two, were instantly recognizable to this writer, and I suspect that other listeners will recognize some of the others: Richard Earle, oboe; Claire Jolivet, violin; Read more Jennifer Stirling, viola; Timothy Merton, cello; Anne Trout, bass. (For the record, Krista Rivers and Frank Kelley sing the inner parts of the chorale of BWV 32.)

If that’s the bad, what’s the good? Well, that has to do with the venues at which Sarasa pursues its primary mission. Sarasa was founded in 1997 by Merton at the urging of a volunteer at the Sing-Sing Correctional Facility in New York after he played a recital there. According to the album notes, Sarasa performs at “adult and adolescent correctional facilities, homes for the elderly, mental hospitals, and institutions for the disabled.” Over the years, it has maintained a special outreach program for troubled youth in the greater Boston area. If you are a client at one of these institutions, Sarasa is very good news, indeed; if you are not, well, even better for you.

Were I to recommend this disc on the basis of the performers’ charitable works, however, I would sound like your mother telling you to “Eat your greens, dear.” No, I’ll recommend the disc because it offers magnificent music, superior performances, and first-rate recording. The competition is formidable, of course. Hyperion has a fine recording of BWV 82 and 202 sung by David Thomas and Emma Kirkby (with Alison Bury, by the way), but it hasn’t Sarasa’s advantage of a third cantata. I continue to favor Emmy Ameling in the wedding cantata, and my current choice for No. 82 is by Thomas Quasthoff, but Labelle and Sylvan can hold their own with just about anyone. Try this one. You’ll like it.

FANFARE: George Chien
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Works on This Recording

Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten, BWV 202 "Wedding Cantata" by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Dominique Labelle (Soprano), Sanford Sylvan (Baritone)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sarasa Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1718-1723; Cöthen, Germany 
Length: 20 Minutes 34 Secs. 
Ich habe genug, BWV 82 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Dominique Labelle (Soprano), Sanford Sylvan (Baritone)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sarasa Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1727; Cöthen, Germany 
Length: 20 Minutes 15 Secs. 
Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen, BWV 32 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Sanford Sylvan (Baritone), Dominique Labelle (Soprano), Krista River (Mezzo Soprano),
Frank Kelley (Tenor)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sarasa Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1726; Leipzig, Germany 
Length: 23 Minutes 46 Secs. 

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