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Bach: Wie Freudig Ist Mein Herz / Ruby Hughes, Musica Saeculorum

Bach / Hughes / Musica Saeculorum
Release Date: 08/27/2013 
Label:  Fra Bernardo   Catalog #: 1209132   
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Ruby Hughes
Conductor:  Philipp Von Steinaecker
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Musica Saeculorum
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BACH Cantatas Nos. 199; 82b Ruby Hughes (sop); Philipp von Steinaecker (cond); Musica Saeculorum (period instruments) FRA BERNARDO 1209132 (47:22 Text and Translation)

Welsh soprano Ruby Hughes is new to me but hardly a newcomer to the music scene; her breakout year was 2009, when she won First Prize and Audience Prize at the Handel Singing Competition in London. Opera News included her in its list of “Who’s Hot in Opera?” Read more Her credits, in concert music as well as opera, are already eye-catchingly impressive. She’s clearly a Baroque specialist, but her repertory, Handel aside, ranges from Dowland and Monteverdi to Berg, Britten, and Górecki. She’s even done Peer Gynt . I’d like to hear that—especially after listening to this disc.

The two cantatas affirm God’s redeeming grace, a recurring theme in Lutheran theology and, consequently, in Bach’s sacred music, but they approach it from different perspectives. In the earlier BWV 199, a wretched sinner’s self-loathing confession gives way to the joy of forgiving salvation. In BWV 82, composed 16 years later, the world-weary protagonist welcomes the peace and comfort of death in God’s loving embrace. Heavy stuff. Hughes brings a luminous intensity to both of these works, singing with flawless agility and an appealing vocal beauty, both with and without vibrato. I prefer the former, but discreetly mixing the two is considered desirable practice nowadays. FB’s note identifies Hughes as a mezzo-soprano, but she sings confidently and securely throughout the range, and she has chosen the soprano version of Ich habe genug (BWV 82b, with a traverso replacing the oboe as her instrumental partner). Without a doubt Hughes is the raison d’être for this venture, but Philipp von Steinarcker and Musica Saeculorum (led by concertmaster Kati Debretzeni and featuring oboist Molly Marsh and flutist Chiara Tonelli) provide splendid support.

Hughes’s program duplicates (but reverses) that of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson on a decade-old Nonesuch CD. Hunt Lieberson’s recording, made shortly before her premature death, was greatly admired (by yours truly and others) for its passionate energy. Hunt Lieberman may have a slight edge on Hughes in drama, but Hughes’s beauty of tone offers ample compensation.

FANFARE: George Chien
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Works on This Recording

Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut, BWV 199 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Ruby Hughes (Soprano)
Conductor:  Philipp Von Steinaecker
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Musica Saeculorum
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1714; Cöthen, Germany 
Ich habe genug, BWV 82 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Ruby Hughes (Soprano)
Conductor:  Philipp Von Steinaecker
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Musica Saeculorum
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1727; Cöthen, Germany 

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