Notes and Editorial Reviews
For a while now, Bach's wedding cantata, Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten has been ascribed to the composer's years at Weimar rather than to the subsequent Cöthen period. Certain details in the notational system of the music as well as textual affinities with the poetry style of the Weimar court writer, Salomo Franck, point to the earlier rather than later date of composition; Joshua Rifkin, furthermore, adds weight to the supposition by indicating features in the music itself suggestive of Bach's developing vocal style at Weimar. Even so, in the absence of Bach's autograph and of any documentary evidence relating to the precise occasion which prompted the work, a tantalizing degree of mystery remains.
to the Italian cantata Non sa che sia dolore is, by comparison with No. 202, shrouded in greater mystery. Even Bach's authorship has been questioned in the past and perhaps today we cannot be absolutely sure that he wrote all the music belonging to the piece. Nevertheless, a number of interesting discoveries relating to it have recently been made. One of these concerns the somewhat inelegantly and inexpertly compiled Italian text where passages of Guarini and Metastasio have been identified. The occasion for which Bach wrote the cantata, though, remains as uncertain as ever. We can infer from the text that he was honouring, either of his own free will or by request, the departure of a man of learning for Ansbach, presumably from Leipzig. Two of Bach's acquaintances, Gesner and Mizler, have been cited in this context but inconclusively and, as Rifkin says, only a chance discovery will bring us closer to the work's origins.
The performances are delightfully intimate but my enjoyment was tempered by too constant an awareness that most of those concerned were being stretched to the limits of their technical capabilities and that little or nothing was held in reserve. Welcher nur gets off to a slightly uneasy start with shaky intonation, though I much liked the soprano, Julianne Baird's discreet ornamentation of the vocal line; but she does not always find the centre of her notes in the vigorously demanding continuo aria, "Phoebus eilt mit schnellen Pferden". A strong feature of this cantata is the oboe playing of Stephen Hammer, whose expertise and sensibility I have remarked upon in previous reviews. No less accomplished is the flautist, Christopher Krueger who has a virtuoso role in Non sa che sia dolore. Julianne Baird copes well with this work and in general sounds under less strain than in the other. In its elaborate B minor Sinfonia for flute and strings, incidentally, Rifkin ignores the occasional pizzicato markings which occur in the two violin parts, both of the surviving manuscript and of the BachGesellschaft edition based on it. At these points in the score he essays, as he puts it, "more speculative corrections". The matter is explained more fully in the note.
In short, whilst I have enjoyed the performances and applaud much of the thinking behind the approach I feel the need, as so often in Bach's music, for greater technical accomplishment from almost every department. I am not searching for what modernists can supply in the way of supposed technical and interpretative advances but rather for a greater strength and assurance which music of this order demands for the realization of its profound and seemingly endless subtlety. Having said that, I think you may look in vain for a more sympathetic and intelligible account of No. 209 on commercial disc.
-- Gramophone [2/1989]
Works on This Recording
Non sa che sia dolore, BWV 209 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Julianne Baird (Soprano)
Written: ?1734; Leipzig, Germany
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