Notes and Editorial Reviews
Peter Schreier takes the opening aria of the Kreuzstab Cantata at a brisker pace than I can ever previously remember having heard. What a good idea! Most performances focus on the cross-bearing but ignore the gladness of the text, the journey to the promised land and the laying of sorrow in the grave. Less convincing, perhaps, is the way in which Schreier articulates the music inducing a slightly breathless effect and a jauntiness which, however optimistic the text, does strike me as misplaced. I was left feeling a little exhausted by the end of the aria and less affected by it than I should have been. The vivid word painting of the following accompanied recitative, which likens the mortal's journey through life to a sea voyage, is imaginatively done both by Olaf Bar and by Kevin McCrae, whose cello playing sympathetically complements the voice. And the partnership between Bar and the oboist Douglas Boyd in the following virtuoso aria is just as effective with plenty of light and shade in the dynamics and thoughtful shaping of phrases. Schreier uses a bassoon with organ as continuo here, instead of the more usual cello. Elsewhere in the programme he switches between organ and harpsichord, the latter being used mainly for recitative, accompanied and semplice.
Second in the programme is Der Friede sei mit dir, both shorter and earlier in its composition than the two other solo bass cantatas sung here. The focal point of this piece is its single aria with a lyrical violin obbligato. This is provided by James Clark whose expressive and beautifully controlled playing is all that one could wish for. The concluding chorale is pleasingly sung, both in this and the previous cantata by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra Chorus or, at least, a section of it.
Lastly comes Ich habe genug, whose elegiac opening aria and sublime lullaby ''Schlummert ein'' place the cantata on the uppermost slopes of Mount Parnassus. Schreier has chosen Bach's earlier version for bass which excludes the oboe from ''Schlummert ein''; later, with a masterstroke, Bach added a doubling oboe da caccia to the first violin part. Bar's declamation is beautifully controlled and eloquently punctuated and he is warmly supported by the strings of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Again, as in the opening aria of No. 56, I felt that an expressive dimension had been lost through the adoption of a tempo that was fractionally too brisk. It is, for instance, almost a minute and a half shorter than Peter Kooy's performance with Philippe Herreweghe (Harmonia Mundi), and knocks nearly 30 seconds off Nikolaus Harnoncourt's by no means tardy reading (Teldec).
However, I enjoyed these performances all the same. There are many strong features in Schreier's approach and the singing of Olaf Bar is of a calibre I shall want to return to time and again. Recorded sound is spacious and effective and there is an informative note by Robin Stowell to guide you on an awe-inspiring musical journey. Not period instruments, but so what. Recommended.
-- Nicholas Anderson, Gramophone [6/1993]