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Bach: Cantatas Bwv 108, 86, 11, 44 / Kuijken, Le Petite Band

Bach / Thornbill / Noskaiova / Le Petite Band
Release Date: 05/25/2010 
Label:  Accent   Catalog #: 25310   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Jan Van der CrabbenPetra NoskaiováSigi ThornbillChristoph Genz
Conductor:  Sigiswald Kuijken
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Petite Bande
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



BACH Cantatas: No. 108; 2,3,4 No. 86; 1,2,3,4 No. 11; 1, 2,3,4 No. 44 1, 2,3,4 Sigiswald Kuijken, cond; 1 Siri Thornhill (sop); 2 Petra Noskaiová (alt); 3 Christoph Genz (ten); 4 Read more class="ARIAL12">Jan Van der Crabben (bar); La Petite Bande (period instruments) ACCENT 25310 (SACD: 73:38 Text and Translation)


Sigiswald Kuijken continues on with Volume 10 in his series of the cantatas for the complete liturgical year. As mentioned before, these are Rifkinized performances, so the largest choral mass you will hear is four people. I wish he had taken another direction as his instincts in this music are so adept, tempos well chosen, and the soloists are wonderful—but they need a bigger choir behind them!


The music chosen for this disc are for the fourth, fifth, and sixth Sundays after Easter, named Cantate, Rogate , and Exaudi, respectively after the opening words of the Latin Intoitus hymn for each Sunday. The titles are It Is Good That I Leave You (BWV 108), Verily, Verily I Say Unto You (BWV 86), and They Will Excommunicate You (BWV 44), giving the theme summary for the day, all taken from the sayings of Jesus as found in the Gospel of St. John. These works contain some of Bach’s greatest music as he was well aware of the importance of maintaining the post-Easter festal mood while simultaneously trying to import a sense of responsibility to his congregants.


BWV 11, the so-called “Ascension Oratorio,” is easily the most jubilant work on this disc, and though it, like the other cantatas, lacks for nothing in terms of stylistic appropriateness and lovely execution, it is precisely in this piece that the one-to-a-part fails us so completely. After the rousing instrumental introduction to the final movement, when an overwhelming urge to be hit by tsunami-like choral forces singing “When shall it ever happen, when comes the welcome day, in which I shall behold Him on all His majesty?” roots in our souls, we are instead led down a path that sounds more like enthused picnickers on a Sunday afternoon talking among themselves. One only has to listen to the magnificent noise that Richter conjures up (Archiv) to understand what is missing.


Nevertheless, the quality of the performances and Kuijken’s innate musicality and intensely devotional spirit—in some ways exceeding that of Suzuki—force me, almost against my will, to give an unconditional thumbs-up to these performances. But I am not sure I could make them my only performances. The surround sound is top-notch, quite in keeping with previous issues in this series, and Accent can count this as another winner.


FANFARE: Steven E. Ritter


Sigiswald Kuijken's Bach cantata pilgrimage is taking in fewer stops than those of his contemporaries – he is recording a single cantata for each Sunday of the liturgical calendar – but it is still an ambitious project. And the comparisons that it is up against are daunting to say the least; we are in one-to-a-part territory here, but there are already plenty of those about. SACD? An excellent decision by somebody at Accent, but it invites comparisons with Suzuki's superlative cycle. Then there is Kuijken's own back catalogue, which itself contains some of the greatest Bach cantata recordings ever made.

He is on form though, and this disc holds up well against his earlier offerings. La Petite Bande is a good deal more petite than it was in the 1990s, and it has lost a few of its greatest stars. Marcel Ponseele, perhaps the greatest ever exponent of the baroque oboe, has departed the ensemble and is sorely missed. However, his replacement, Patrick Beaugiraud, is a player of the same school, and while he doesn't quite manage the variety of articulation of Ponseele's obbligato lines, he nonetheless achieves a similar level of musicality and lyricism. His is the first solo turn, in the bass aria "Es ist euch gut, dass ich hingehe" of BWV 108 and it is an impressive start to the disc.

Comparisons with Masaaki Suzuki are instructive as both make the most of the SACD technology to create real intimacy. But where Suzuki's forces excel in perfecting the ensemble and phrase structuring, Kuijken is happy for a little imprecision to creep in. The tuning in the strings is rarely 100%, but that slightly wayward intonation only adds to the sense of immediacy. And unlike Suzuki, Kuijken takes a relaxed approach to the structuring of phrases. It sounds almost intuitive, although I'm sure it is highly studied and prepared, but it allows the instrumental forces to sound all the more vocal for not being overly regimented or controlled.

Kuijken is a great believer in the virtue of authenticity, so one-to-a-part is treated as a musical virtue rather than an inconvenient truth of historicism. He is also an advocate of the cello da spalla, an instrument like a large viola but tuned as a cello. Discussion continues as to whether the Cello Suites were written for such an instrument, and until it is conclusively disproved Kuijken is going to use it as the tenor instrument of his string section. This makes for a slightly top-heavy sound, or insubstantial rather, but it fits well into his intimate and relaxed tonal palette.

One aspect of Kuijken's music-making that is well represented on this disc is his own performance on the baroque violin. He plays obbligato in the aria "Ich will doch wohl Rosen brechen" in BWV 86 and it is a triumph of understated baroque elegance, an intricate, weaving line, but with that earthy, grounded tone of gut strings played by somebody who really knows how to play on gut strings. As with so many of Kuijken's previous recordings, it is an example of the sheer variety and musicality that 18 th century instrumentation can bring: he may be a partisan advocate of period instruments, but he can always demonstrate why they are superior.

None of the vocal soloists really stand out, but that fits Kuijken's approach well. They are, after all, required to be the choir as often as they are given solo numbers. All sing with an absolute minimum of vibrato or ornamentation, neither of which is particularly missed in this relaxed intimate setting. There are one or two tuning issues, but again, in this relaxed setting one or two slightly flat notes hardly seem significant. They wouldn't get away it under Suzuki though, that's for sure.

It is a shame that Kuijken is not trying for a complete cycle, because numerous as they already are, he really has something unique to say with this music. The SACD sound really enhances the intimacy; it is as if you have your own Petite Bande sitting in front of you, and every nuance is faithfully and clearly reproduced. You could complain that it is underpowered, or top heavy, or imprecise, or based on a contentious view of Bach's orchestration, but once you have listened to a few minutes all these thoughts will pass. This may not be the last word on Bach, but it is close to the last word on Kuijken's Bach.

-- Gavin Dixon, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Es ist euch gut, das ich hingehe, BWV 108 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Jan Van der Crabben (Baritone), Petra Noskaiová (Alto), Sigi Thornbill (Soprano),
Christoph Genz (Tenor)
Conductor:  Sigiswald Kuijken
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Petite Bande
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1725; Leipzig, Germany 
2.
Wahrlich, wahrlich ich sage euch, BWV 86 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Sigi Thornbill (Soprano), Petra Noskaiová (Alto), Christoph Genz (Tenor),
Jan Van der Crabben (Baritone)
Conductor:  Sigiswald Kuijken
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Petite Bande
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1724; Leipzig, Germany 
3.
Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen, BWV 11 "Ascension Oratorio" by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Petra Noskaiová (Alto), Christoph Genz (Tenor), Sigi Thornbill (Soprano),
Jan Van der Crabben (Baritone)
Conductor:  Sigiswald Kuijken
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Petite Bande
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1735; Leipzig, Germany 
4.
Sie werden euch in den Bann tun, BWV 44 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Petra Noskaiová (Alto), Sigi Thornbill (Soprano), Jan Van der Crabben (Baritone),
Christoph Genz (Tenor)
Conductor:  Sigiswald Kuijken
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Petite Bande
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1724; Leipzig, Germany 

Sound Samples

Es ist euch gut, dass ich hingehe, BWV 108: Aria: Es ist euch gut, dass ich hingehe (Bass)
Es ist euch gut, dass ich hingehe, BWV 108: Aria: Mich kann kein Zweifel storen (Tenor)
Es ist euch gut, dass ich hingehe, BWV 108: Recitative: Dein Geist wird mich also regieren (Tenor)
Es ist euch gut, dass ich hingehe, BWV 108: Wenn aber jener, der Geist der Wahrheit (Chorus)
Es ist euch gut, dass ich hingehe, BWV 108: Aria: Was mein Herz von dir begehrt (Alto)
Es ist euch gut, dass ich hingehe, BWV 108: Chorale: Dein Geist, den Gott vom Himmel gibt (Chorus)
Wahrlich, wahrlich, ich sage euch, BWV 86: Aria: Wahrlich, wahrlich, ich sage euch (Bass)
Wahrlich, wahrlich, ich sage euch, BWV 86: Aria: Ich will doch wohl Rosen brechen (Alto)
Wahrlich, wahrlich, ich sage euch, BWV 86: Chorale: Und was der ewig gutig Gott (Soprano)
Wahrlich, wahrlich, ich sage euch, BWV 86: Recitative: Gott macht es nicht gleichwie die Welt (Tenor)
Wahrlich, wahrlich, ich sage euch, BWV 86: Aria: Gott hilft gewiss (Tenor)
Wahrlich, wahrlich, ich sage euch, BWV 86: Chorale: Die Hoffnung wart' der rechten Zeit (Chorus)
Ascension Oratorio: Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen, BWV 11: Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen (Chorus)
Ascension Oratorio: Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen, BWV 11: Recitative: Der Herr Jesus hub seine Hande auf (Tenor)
Ascension Oratorio: Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen, BWV 11: Recitative: Ach, Jesu, ist dein Abschied schon so nah? (Bass)
Ascension Oratorio: Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen, BWV 11: Aria: Ach bleibe doch, mein liebstes Leben (Alto)
Ascension Oratorio: Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen, BWV 11: Recitative: Und ward aufgehoben zusehends (Tenor)
Ascension Oratorio: Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen, BWV 11: Chorale: Nun lieget alles unter dir (Chorus)
Ascension Oratorio: Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen, BWV 11: Recitative: Und da sie ihm nachsahen (Tenor, Bass)
Ascension Oratorio: Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen, BWV 11: Recitative: Ach ha! so kmme bald zuruck (Alto)
Ascension Oratorio: Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen, BWV 11: Recitative: Sie aber beteten ihn an (Tenor)
Ascension Oratorio: Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen, BWV 11: Aria: Jesu, deine Gnadenblicke (Soprano)
Ascension Oratorio: Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen, BWV 11: Chorale: Wenn soll es doch geschehen (Chorus)
Sie werden euch in den Bann tun, BWV 44: Aria Duet: Sie werden euch in den Bann tun (Tenor, Bass)
Sie werden euch in den Bann tun, BWV 44: Es kommt aber die Zeit (Chorus)
Sie werden euch in den Bann tun, BWV 44: Aria: Christen mussen auf der Erden (Alto)
Sie werden euch in den Bann tun, BWV 44: Chorale: Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid
Sie werden euch in den Bann tun, BWV 44: Recitative: Es sucht der Antichrist (Bass)
Sie werden euch in den Bann tun, BWV 44: Aria: Es ist und bleibt der Christen Trost (Soprano)
Sie werden euch in den Bann tun, BWV 44: Chorale: So sei nun, Seele, deine (Chorus)

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