Masaaki Suzuki / Bach Collegium Japan

Bach: Secular Cantatas, Vol. 3

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The magisterial cycle of Bach cantatas by Japanese conductor Masaaki Suzuki is winding its way to its end with the release of several albums of the composer's rarely heard secular cantatas; the present album is the third of these. Those picking and choosing from among the series might decide among the selections by sampling the soprano arias; this release, like the second volume, features Joanne Lunn, who cultivates a spare, boy soprano-like sound, while the comparatively creamier Carolyn Sampson appears on the first release. That choice is largely a matter of taste, although annotator Klaus Hoffmann speculates that a 13-year-old boy might have been the original soloist in the wedding cantata Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten, BWV 202 (Just be gone, sad shadows), which opens the program. Most of the music is a lighter shade of Bach, with the two wedding pieces and the cantata Schwingt freudig euch empor, BWV 36c (Soar joyfully upwards), indulging in some jocular word-painting and moods of the sort the composer rarely indulged in otherwise. This work was a congratulatory serenade for an unknown teacher. Another congratulatory work, Durchlauchster Leopold, BWV 173a (Most Illustrious Leopold), was composed for Bach's employer at the time, Prince Leopold von Anhalt-Köthen, and is thus more serious in tone; it is closer to the language of Bach's more festive church cantatas. The most unusual work here is the Wedding Quodlibet, BWV 524, which has come down to the present day in an incomplete form. It is not clear whether this is Bach's work (it is often omitted from cantata sequences), and indeed there's nothing particularly Bachian about it; it consists of a sequence of popular and topical tunes (the latter are, naturally enough, rather obscure in their humor nowadays) cobbled together. Nevertheless, it's a unique look into the everyday popular music of Bach's time, and Suzuki, who comes from a non-European culture, plainly has a good time with it, setting the music in a frame of conversational hustle and bustle. With the high engineering standards that have marked BIS' entire Suzuki cantata series, this is a unique find for serious Bach enthusiasts.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Durchlauchtster Leopold, BWV 173a (Serenata)
1 0:40
2 3:35
3 1:47
4 3:45
5 1:14
6 3:19
7 2:04
8 2:10
Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten, BWV 202
9 6:03
10 0:28
11 3:05
12 0:41
13 2:45
14 0:43
15 3:56
16 0:27
17 1:31
Schwingt freudig euch empor und dringt bis an die Sternen, BWV 36c
18 4:02
19 0:58
20 5:49
21 0:48
22 2:46
23 0:38
24 8:51
25 0:22
26 3:27
Quodlibet, BWV 524 (Fragment)
27 11:19
blue highlight denotes track pick