Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
Secular Cantatas, Vol. 2: Cantatas No. 208;
Masaaki Suzuki, cond;
Joanne Lunn (sop);
Damien Guillon (ct);
Makoto Sakurada (ten);
Roderick Williams (bs); Bach Collegium Japan (period instruments)
BIS SACD-1971 (SACD: 74: 40
Text and Translation)
Sinfonia in F
, BWV 1046a/1
It’s been suggested that if Bach had been born 300 years later he now would be writing advertizing jingles. That’s where the money is, they say, and we all know that Bach was always looking for ways to supplement the income from his day job. I’m not so sure. For one thing, if he had been born in 1985 he wouldn’t have had 20 children and needed those extra bucks to support his family. On the other hand, all the kids he did have—girls as well as boys—would be going to college.… Bach could write a catchy tune all right, but he was more interested in what could be done with a tune than the tune itself. Besides, much of his best work involved other people’s tunes—think of the chorale settings. And he wasn’t hip. Of course, now he is, but it took the world a couple of centuries to come to that realization. Advertisers normally don’t have that kind of perspective. I suspect that Bach today could be an awesome programmer. And if he wanted to bring in a little on the side he could be a publicist!
In his spare time, such as it was, Bach wrote countless puff pieces—we don’t know how many because most are presumed lost—designed to flatter the people who mattered: persons of rank, employers, retiring scholars (the celebrities of the day—we can only wish!), and the like. The secular cantatas are surviving examples. Given Bach’s often prickly relationships with his employers, we can only guess that he had to suppress his gag reflex when he set these obsequious panegyrics. But he approached these tasks with the same diligence that he applied to his official duties, and we now know that many of them reappeared, somewhat modified, in the church cantatas.
One such example is BWV 134a, composed in 1719 for Prince Leopold in Cöthen, which resurfaced as Cantata 134 in Leipzig on Easter Tuesday, 1724. The original was cast as a dialog between Time (the past) and Divine Providence (the future). Maestro Suzuki, abetted by the solid contributions of Makoto Sakurada as Time and Damien Guillon as Providence, captures the optimistic spirit of the affair, which quite possibly reflects Bach’s positive relationship with Leopold at the time.
The “Hunting” Cantata, BWV 208, is Bach’s earliest extant secular cantata, written in 1713 for Duke Christian of Sachsen-Weißenfels to celebrate the Duke’s abiding interest in putting game animals out of their presumed misery. The Duke and the hunt are treated to encomiums from Diana, goddess of the hunt, Endymion, her lover, and Pan and Pales, gods of shepherds and flocks, in one of the longer cantatas (15 movements). Bach apparently liked the cantata enough to perform it on different occasions and to parody some of its movements in other cantatas. It’s best known, however, for one he didn’t reuse, Pales’s aria, “Schafe können sicher weiden” (Sheep may safely graze). Suzuki’s performance is characteristically direct and unmannered. The soloists—Sophie Junker as Diana, Joanne Lunn as Pales, Sakurada as Endymion, and Roderick Williams as Pan—are well suited for their roles. I was not entirely convinced by Lunn’s embellishments in the reprise of her great aria, and the horns that introduced Diana and accompanied the final chorus were a tad unruly, but my overall response was positive.
Since the Hunt Cantata opens with a recitative, Suzuki has chosen to introduce it with the first movement of Bach’s first version of the First
—the one with horns. This is Suzuki’s second foray into the secular cantatas—he had previously recorded the Coffee and Peasant Cantatas—and it promises more good things to come.
FANFARE: George Chien
Works on This Recording
Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd!, BWV 208 "Hunt Cantata" by Johann Sebastian Bach
Roderick Williams (Baritone),
Makoto Sakurada (Tenor),
Joanne Lunn (Soprano),
Sophie Junker (Soprano)
Bach Collegium Japan
Written: 1713; Cöthen, Germany
Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht, BWV 134a by Johann Sebastian Bach
Damien Guillon (Countertenor),
Makoto Sakurada (Tenor)
Bach Collegium Japan
Written: 1719; Cöthen, Germany
Sinfonia in F major, BWV 1046a by Johann Sebastian Bach
Bach Collegium Japan
Written: 1713; ?Weimar, Germany
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