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CD Review

Johann Sebastian Bach

Cantatas from Leipzig 1724

  • Cantata "Jesu, der du meine Seele", BWV 78
  • Cantata "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan", BWV 99
  • Cantata "Ach lieben Christen, seid getrost", BWV 114
Yukari Nonoshita, soprano
Daniel Taylor, counter-tenor
Makoto Sakurada, tenor
Peter Kooij, bass
Bach Collegium Japan/Masaaki Suzuki
Recorded Kobe Shoin Women's University Chapel, Japan
BIS CD-1361 62:57
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Suzuki Cantata Series: Volume 25 represents the mid-point of Suzuki's major undertaking of all the Bach Cantatas. Previous volumes have been enthusiastically received throughout the review community, and that is no surprise. Suzuki's performances have been affectionate, reverent to the texts, and rhythmically supple with generally excellent support from the vocal soloists and exceptional work from the orchestra and chorus. Overall, Suzuki's cycle might well be the best ever on record.

Volume 25 Program: The three Cantatas on the disc come from Bach's second year of service in Leipzig during September/October 1724. Although each of the three Cantatas presents exceptional music, it is Cantata BWV 78 that is most recorded likely because of the wonderful duet for soprano and alto "Wir eilen mit schwachen, doch emsigen Schritten". More about this duet later in the review.

Performances: With a couple of exceptions, Suzuki is at his customary best in the three programmed works. The vocal soloists are particularly impressive, each of them possessing fine tonal qualities and expression.

Reservations: My reservations concern the soprano/alto duet and the concluding Choral from BWV 78. Both pieces has a warm glow of spiritual magnitude, and Suzuki's pacing is too quick to fully capture it. For comparison, I listened to the Rifkin/Decca and Herreweghe/Harmonia Mundi versions. Both performances are slower in the two pieces, creating sufficient breathing room for the glorious music. I should relate that the English translation of the duet is "We hasten with weak yet eager steps". So, some might end up feeling that Suzuki is the conductor who is most eager and uses the appropriate tempo. However, this reviewer really misses the warmth in the music.

Don's Conclusions: With exceptional sound and vocal contributions, the mid-point volume of Suzuki's Bach Cantata series is easy to recommend. And yet, I have nagging doubts about Suzuki's tempos in the duet and ending Choral from BWV 78, doubts that lead me to not considering the new volume an essential acquisition except for those who have been collecting each volume in the series.

Copyright © 2005/2006, Don Satz