Notes and Editorial Reviews
Cantatas: No. 199; No. 51
Harry Bicket (cond); Elizabeth Watts (sop); English Concert (period instruments)
HARMONIA MUNDI HMU 807550 (SACD: 65:07
Text and Translation)
Arias from Cantatas 31, 57, 105, 84
This disc has put me in a brown mood. Elizabeth Watts, like UPS, delivers the goods. And it’s the whole package. The program is all Bach, but was
clearly designed to test Watts’s considerable range of talents, interpretively as well as technically. In a word (or five), she passes with flying colors. There are silvery high notes and dusky low ones, rapid passagework and floated sustained tones, plus introspection and exuberance—all delivered with well-justified confidence. Watts is neither reluctant nor embarrassed to use her vibrato. She is at her best in Cantata 199, where her journey from abject self-loathing (“My heart swims in blood”) to joyful acceptance (“How joyful is my heart”) is utterly convincing and natural. The coloratura showpiece, BWV 51, is not quite as successful. The breakneck pace of the first aria is a bit too ambitious, and the Alleluia tends to teeter on the edge of disaster. But Watts never quite stumbles, and ends triumphantly. Of course, in that respect she has plenty of company. Emma Kirkby (on Philips) remains the unrivaled mistress of Cantata 51.
The four arias, well chosen for their variety, are welcome supplements to the two cantatas. Harry Bicket’s accompaniment is sympathetic and supportive. His English Concert needs no introduction, though its members may to listeners who recall its halcyon days under the leadership of Trevor Pinnock. Oboist Katharina Spreckelsen and trumpeter Mark Bennett are outstanding collaborators for Watts. Overall, this is a rewarding disc, well recommended.
FANFARE: George Chien
Works on This Recording
Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut, BWV 199 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Elizabeth Watts (Soprano)
Written: 1714; Cöthen, Germany
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