This disc is the 37th in the complete Bach canata edition undertaken by Japanese historical-performance specialist Masaaki Suzuki, whose precisely sensuous renderings of the cantatas have found favor with a wide variety of listeners. In line with Suzuki's concentration on the sheer surface beauties of Bach's music, his cantatas tend to be grouped according to purely musical considerations. In this case the three cantatas (and the one small odd aria appended at the end) are joined not only by their focus on the solo alto voice (the only chorale comes at the end of the first cantata, Gott soll allein mein Herze haben, BWV 169), but also by the prominence of the organ, which functions as a duet partner with countertenor Robin Blaze at several points and even, exceptionally in Bach's output, has all-instrumental movements of its own. British countertenor Blaze has been heard in combination with other soloists on several other discs in Suzuki's series, but here he steps into the spotlight. His voice is ideally suited to Suzuki's low-volume but high-intensity approach, which is entirely distinctive and is, one might say, presented in its purest form in these cantatas. You're likely to find it either brilliant or a little mannered. Suzuki and Blaze keep the temperature low, picking out the intense dissonances that lurk in Bach's music and exposing them with a quiet steeliness. Sample the aria "Wie jammern mich doch die verkehrten Herzen" (How I bewail the hearts who have lost their way) from the cantata Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust, BWV 170 (track 10) to hear the precision Suzuki brings to Bach's twisting chromatic lines, with Blaze's voice shimmering in the interstices. It's not a straightforward approach -- and some will fault it in this regard -- but it is entrancing for those who fall under its spell. The organ parts, whose interpretation is spelled out in some detail by Suzuki in the booklet, are played by Suzuki himself. The cantatas were recorded in two different places, in Japan and Germany, with quite different sonic results, and a much smaller organ is used in the German rcording of Geist und Seele wird verwirret, BWV 170 -- but the engineers have structured the transition well, and the listener's attention is apt to be concentrated on Suzuki's entirely individualistic interpretations. This is perhaps not the disc to choose if you want to sample Suzuki's approach, but it may be among the most rewarding of the whole series for listeners already hooked. Texts and booklet notes appear in German and English.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Cantata No. 169, "Gott soll allein mein Herze haben," BWV 169 (BC A143)|
|Cantata No. 170, "Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust," BWV 170 (BC A106)|
|Cantata No. 35, "Geist und Seele wird verwirret," BWV 35 (BC A125)|