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Bach: Cantatas / Andreas Scholl, Kammerorchester Basel


Release Date: 10/11/2011 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 001605202  
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Andreas Scholl
Conductor:  Julia Schröder
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Basel Chamber Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



BACH Cantatas: No. 82; No. 169; No. 200. Cantata No. 150: Sinfonia. Cantata No. 161 : Recitativo. HOFFMANN Cantata, BWV 53 Andreas Scholl (ct); Basel CO (period instruments) DECCA B0016052-02 (63:30 Text and Translation)


Andreas Scholl has now recorded all of Bach’s solo cantatas for Read more alto voice—and then some—having reached this milestone circuitously. He recorded Cantata 54 first for Ton Koopman’s complete cantata series (originally for Erato, now available on the Challenge label) and later, along with Cantatas 35 and 170, with Philippe Herreweghe for Harmonia Mundi France. The Decca disc, made with the Basel Chamber Orchestra, closes the circle with Cantatas 169 and 200. BWV 82 was written for the bass voice, but Bach subsequently prepared alternate versions for soprano and mezzo-soprano, so its inclusion in Scholl’s survey is legitimate. More questionable is BWV 200, a single-movement fragment of an otherwise lost cantata that may or may not have been a solo work. BWV 53, a single-movement alto aria, probably is a complete work, but not by Bach. Now attributed to Georg Melchior Hoffmann, it is the most frequently recorded of the spurious cantatas. Its popularity is undoubtedly bolstered by its unique scoring, which includes bells, but also because it is a very effective piece. In this instance it also provides the stimulus for including the recitative from Cantata 161 in the program. In that movement Bach depicts the tolling of bells without actually using them. The brief sinfonia from Cantata 150, as far as I can tell, is simply there as a change of pace.


Scholl’s singing has the assurance and sensitivity that mark him as one of the finest countertenors now before the public. The high expectations for this release are easily met, and a warm recommendation is well earned. That said, my preference for the bass voice in Cantata 82 rules out Scholl as a top contender for that most popular cantata. (My current benchmark is Thomas Quasthoff on Deutsche Grammophon.) No such reservation can be applied to the rest of the disc; Scholl’s Cantata 53 makes one wish that it actually were authentic Bach. The Basel Chamber Orchestra provides solid support. The ensemble has no conductor, but it has a concertmaster, Julia Schröder. Unfortunately, the major soloists—the oboist in No. 82 (good) and the organist in No. 169 (excellent)—are not named in the booklet’s limited documentation. Nevertheless, this is a most welcome addition to the Bach cantata discography.


FANFARE: George Chien


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Recently, I < reviewed for MusicWeb International Seen and Heard a concert in Birmingham at which Andreas Scholl and Kammerorchesterbasel performed the two cantatas that form the mainstay of this CD programme. I had reservations about the concert, though a couple of nights later my colleague Gavin Dixon caught the same programme at London’s Barbican Hall and it seems from his review that he was better able to hear the singer and admire his performances. Within just a few days of that Birmingham concert this CD arrived for appraisal.
 
With the live concert still fresh in my memory two things are evident when considering the disc. Firstly, as I expected, there are no issues relating to balance: Andreas Scholl’s voice come over clearly, even in the low-lying stretches of ‘Schlummert ein’ (BWV 82). Secondly, I’d noticed, though I didn’t specifically comment, that oboist Kerstin Kamp didn’t always sound comfortable in BWV 82 and this certainly bothered Gavin Dixon a couple of days later. I presume Miss Kamp plays on this disc – it looks like her in the session photo – and the oboe part is flawlessly delivered.
 
With Andreas Scholl’s voice perfectly audible throughout one can appreciate fully his considerable artistry in BWV 82. His rendition of the ineffably poignant aria ‘Ich habe genug‘ is sophisticated and eloquent. A little later he sings ‘Schlummert ein’ with disarming simplicity and with a wonderfully pure tone. In these arias and, arguably, even more so in the recitatives, he invests the words with meaning yet he never exaggerates for unwarranted emphasis. There’s a fine feeling of intimacy to the performance of this cantata, which is just as it should be. The concluding aria, ‘Ich freue mich auf meinen Tod’ finds both singer and instrumentalists imparting a becoming lift to the music and, as before, the low-lying passages present no problem to Scholl. This is a fine recording of the cantata.
 
For BWV 169 I presume that Giorgio Paronuzzi is the organist, as he was in Birmingham. His playing in the sprightly opening Sinfonia was excellent in the concert and, assuming it’s him playing on this recording, then his playing delights once again – and the orchestra is on fine form too. It’s an ebullient movement and here it launches the cantata in great style. Scholl, rightly, introduces a more thoughtful mood into the following recitative. Organ and voice combine to excellent effect in the aria ‘Gott soll allein mein Herze haben’. Scholl is quite superb here, his tone pure, his diction crystal clear and he manages to be completely involved in the communication of the music while at the same time coming across as fully relaxed and at ease. The organ is a little more discreet than I remember from the concert - the more intimate acoustic here is no doubt a factor – but it’s no less telling and the partnership with Scholl is most effective. In the wonderful aria, ‘Stirb in mir’, Scholl’s command of line is complete and, once again, his singing is enviably relaxed.
 
The rest of the programme has a slightly ‘bitty’ feel to it. What a pity Scholl, in this sort of form, didn’t include a complete performance of Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust, BWV 170. However, that’s not to say that the pieces he has included aren’t well worth hearing. The single movement BWV 200 was lost until 1924 and Alfred Dürr thinks it may well be all that survives of another cantata written, like BWV 82, for the Feast of Purification. Scholl gives the aria a dedicated performance. He shows his exemplary feeling for the texts in the recitativo from BWV 161 though I don’t quite understand why such a short excerpt from the cantata has been included. Admittedly it does have a relevance to both BWV 200 and BWV 82 because, though written for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity, it was probably used by Bach at some stage for the Feast of Purification, according to Alfred Dürr. However, wrenching it out of context in this way rather reduces it to the status of a‘filler’. If an excerpt from the cantata was wanted would not the opening aria of the cantata, ‘Komm, du süße Todesstunde’, which is an alto aria, have been a more logical choice?
 
The concluding item, Schlage doch, gew ünschte Stunde, though it carries a BWV number, is spurious - if nothing else, the inclusion of a pair of tinkling bells in the scoring would give it away - and most likely written by Georg Melchior Hoffmann (1679?–1715). Like BWV 200 it consists of a single aria. Scholl and his colleagues perform it with the same care as if it had been by Bach himself.
 
These exemplary performances have been recorded very well indeed. The sound mixes clarity and intimacy in just the right proportions. The main focus in the booklet is an interesting essay by Scholl himself in which he discusses his approach to singing Bach. It’s very noticeable how much importance he attaches – very rightly – to the words. That comes across strongly in his performances on this disc.
 
The Birmingham concert was something of a disappointment to me in that I didn’t feel that what I heard was a true reflection of the artistry of Andreas Scholl in Bach. I don’t believe that was his fault; it was just that the venue wasn’t completely suitable on that occasion. We know that commercial recordings are a different matter. There the artists are seeking to create a document so the engineers quite legitimately help them to create a balance that will best help the listener to enjoy the music to the full. I’m glad to have heard this CD because it “puts the record straight”. Anyone hearing it should be left in no doubt that Andreas Scholl is a superb and very thoughtful exponent of the music of Bach.
 
-- John Quinn, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Ich habe genug, BWV 82 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Andreas Scholl (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Julia Schröder
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Basel Chamber Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1727; Cöthen, Germany 
2.
Gott soll allein mein Herze haben, BWV 169 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Andreas Scholl (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Julia Schröder
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Basel Chamber Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1726; Leipzig, Germany 
3.
Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich, BWV 150: no 1, Sinfonia in B minor by Johann Sebastian Bach
Conductor:  Julia Schröder
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Basel Chamber Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1708-1709; Cöthen, Germany 
4.
Bekennen will ich seinen Namen, BWV 200 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Andreas Scholl (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Julia Schröder
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Basel Chamber Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: ?1742; Leipzig, Germany 
5.
Komm, du süsse Todesstunde, BWV 161: no 4, Der Schluss ist schon gemacht by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Andreas Scholl (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Julia Schröder
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Basel Chamber Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1715; Cöthen, Germany 
6.
Schlage doch, gewünschte Stunde, BWV 53: Schlage doch, gewünschte Stunde by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Andreas Scholl (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Julia Schröder
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Basel Chamber Orchestra
Period: Baroque 

Sound Samples

Cantata "Ich habe genug" BWV 82: 1. Aria: Ich habe genug, ich habe den Heiland
Cantata "Ich habe genug" BWV 82: 2. Recitativo: Ich habe genug! Mein Trost ist nur allein
Cantata "Ich habe genug" BWV 82: 3. Aria: Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen
Cantata "Ich habe genug" BWV 82: 4. Recitativo: Mein Gott! wann kommt das schöne Nun!
Cantata "Ich habe genug" BWV 82: 5. Aria: Ich freue mich auf meinen Tod
Gott soll allein mein Herze haben Cantata BWV 169: 1. Sinfonia
Gott soll allein mein Herze haben Cantata BWV 169: 2. Arioso
Gott soll allein mein Herze haben Cantata BWV 169: 3. Aria: "Gott soll allein mein Herze haben"
Gott soll allein mein Herze haben Cantata BWV 169: 4. Recitativo: "Was ist die Liebe Gottes"
Gott soll allein mein Herze haben Cantata BWV 169: 5. Aria: "Stirb in mir"
Gott soll allein mein Herze haben Cantata BWV 169: 6. Recitativo: "Doch meint es auch dabei"
Gott soll allein mein Herze haben Cantata BWV 169: 7. Choral: "Du süsse Liebe"
Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich Cantata, BWV 150: 1. Sinfonia
Cantata "Bekennen will ich seinen Namen" BWV 200: 1. Aria: "Bekennen will ich seinen Namen"
Cantata "Komm du süsse Todesstunde", BWV161: 4. Der Schluss ist schon gemacht
Cantata No.53: Schlage doch, gewünschte Stunde, BWV53: Schlage doch, gewünschte Stunde

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