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Bach: Cantatas 34, 50, 147 / The Sixteen


Release Date: 09/12/2006 
Label:  Coro   Catalog #: 16039   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  David JamesIan PartridgeMichael GeorgeGillian Fisher
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The SixteenThe Symphony of Harmony and Invention
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Whoa! Here’s another distinguished choral group marketing its recordings on its own label. Ton Koopman, of course, rescued the Amsterdam Baroque Chorus’s Bach Cantata series from oblivion by securing the rights to the recordings from Erato and releasing them on the Challenge label. And John Eliot Gardiner established his own label, Soli Deo Gloria, to release the Monteverdi Choir’s Bach Cantata Pilgrimage recordings after Archiv cancelled its contract to publish them. But prior to either of those developments, Harry Christophers and The Sixteen formed a new label, Coro, to distribute their treasures, which were recorded by Collins. Christophers, to the best of my knowledge, has not set out to record all of the Bach cantatas, but it seems Read more appropriate that my introduction to Coro is devoted to three of them, including two of the very best. BWV 147, derived from a Weimar cantata, was revised for Bach’s first annual cycle in Leipzig and is the source of the stunning chorale better known (and loved) as “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” BWV 34, a late work, was also derived from an earlier effort, in this case, a wedding cantata. It opens with a richly scored chorale fantasia, but the heart of the work is its sole aria for alto, accompanied by two flutes and muted strings. Cantata 50, a mighty choral movement, is a fragment of a cantata that is otherwise lost. In a nice touch, Christophers separates the cantatas with a pair of organ chorale preludes, played by Paul Nicholson.

If Cantata 50, the first item on the disc, sounds a little beefy, it is in fact a hearty chorus and a reminder that, for all his universality, Bach was distinctly German. Yet David James’s reading of the alto aria from Cantata 34 is a model of sensitivity. Cantata 147 and “Jesu, Joy” (twice) are rendered stylishly and sympathetically. For newcomers to the Bach cantatas, this disc could serve a fine introduction. Rifkinites will be disappointed once more, but the name of the ensemble should warn them of what to expect. (It’s actually “worse” than that—the choir, according to the roster, numbers 18.) Speaking of names, one must assume that the instrumental ensemble was assembled with Vivaldi in mind, but it does Bach about as well as one might wish.

FANFARE: George Chien
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Works on This Recording

1. O ewiges Feuer, O Ursprung der Liebe, BWV 34 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen,  The Symphony of Harmony and Invention
Period: Baroque 
Written: after 1740; Leipzig, Germany 
2. Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft, BWV 50 [fragment] by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  David James (Countertenor), Ian Partridge (Tenor), Michael George (Bass)
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen,  The Symphony of Harmony and Invention
Period: Baroque 
Written: ?1723; ?Leipzig, Germany 
3. Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gillian Fisher (Soprano), David James (Countertenor), Ian Partridge (Tenor),
Michael George (Bass)
Conductor:  Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble:  The Sixteen,  The Symphony of Harmony and Invention
Written: 1723 

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