Christophe Coin / Andreas Scholl

Bach: Cantatas Nos. 49, 115, 180

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Originally recorded for the Astrée label in the early '90s, this recording is something of a classic of the historical-performance movement, and its reissue is cause for celebration. It combines awesome soloists just hitting their peak years, a distinctive overall approach from conductor Christophe Coin and the Ensemble Baroque de Limoges, and an illustration of what's possible when Bach's music is played on the instruments he had in mind when he wrote it. The illustration is especially vivid in this case, for all three of these cantatas feature an unusual instrument: a violoncello piccolo, which is a small five-stringed cello with a higher (the extra string is at the top) and less assertive sound than a full-size cello. There is also a second disc of these with the same forces and the same virtues. Coin plays several of these instruments himself and forges an instrumental sound to match its light, ethereal quality. The soloists, especially the young countertenor Andreas Scholl, respond with superbly delicate performances; sample Scholl's aria "Ach, schläfrige Seele, wie? ruhest du noch?" from the Cantata No. 115, "Mache dich bereit, mein Geist," BWV 115. The Cantata No. 49 is one of those metaphorical wedding cantatas with the Jesus conceptualized as a Bridegroom and the Soul as the Bride, calling forth enthusiastic music-making from soprano Barbara Schlick. The list of attractions goes on to include the small, brilliant sound of the period organ, the purity of the singing by the Concerto Vocale of Leipzig, and much more. This belongs in any Bach collection. Notes and texts are in German, English, and French.

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