Notes and Editorial Reviews
The four cantatas of Volume 21 were written earlier in the year––No. 190 for New Year’s Day, No. 65 for Epiphany, No. 81 for the fourth Sunday after Epiphany, and No. 83 for Candelmas (the feast of the Purification of the Virgin). BWV 65 is a splendid cantata, richly scored with pairs of corni da caccia, oboes da caccia, and recorders (in addition to the usual strings and continuo), as befits a commemoration of the arrival of the three kings. In addition to the brilliant opening chorus, there is a memorable aria for tenor. In Cantatas 81 and 83, the chorus is limited to the concluding chorales, the narrative being carried forth in arias for alto, tenor, and bass. The men’s arias in BWV 81 deal with raging waters, but in the bass aria,
Jesus’s command for the sea to subside does not result in a corresponding calming of the musical argument. The New Year’s cantata, BWV 190, is––or should be––even more resplendent than No. 65, calling for three trumpets (with kettledrums), three oboes, and an oboe d’amore. Unfortunately, the surviving score is even more compromised than that of BWV 59––to the extent that Harnoncourt and Leonhardt omitted it from their series. For the BIS series, however, Suzuki includes a first movement reconstructed by his son, Masato, and a second movement of his own devising. For interested listeners, a detailed description of the process is included in the notes. Purists, of course, can skip the reconstructed movements, but it seems unlikely that most listeners will want to do so after hearing them.
Some general notes: after Maestro Suzuki himself, the closest thing to a constant in the series remains Peter Kooij’s steady bass. The leading soprano is now Yukari Nonoshita, whose clear, near white tone is entirely appropriate for Bach’s music. Tenors come and go; note that four different tenors, all satisfactory, appear on these four discs. Suzuki continues to alternate between male or female altos depending on the specific task at hand. The soloists participate in the chorus but do not sing alone. Western names have become quite rare in the list of performers, with Japanese musicians handling most parts, vocal and instrumental, with their by-now-accustomed excellence. The notes remain exemplary, but Klaus Hofmann now shares that task with Suzuki, whose function is generally to explain his decisions regarding problems with the performing editions. As always, BIS’s recordings are first-rate.
I thought I detected a hint of fatigue when I got to Cantata 83, but wasn’t sure whether to attribute it to a harried composer or a hyperactive interpreter––or to an ear-weary listener. Frankly, it may well have been the third. At any rate, everyone seemed to have revived by the time I got to Volume 22 and the second cycle. Of course, I’m going to urge interested listeners to acquire [this disc]. Bach and Suzuki are still one of the best tandems going.
-- George Chien, FANFARE - FANFARE
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