Ton Koopman

Bach: Solo Cantatas for Bass

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Four of J.S. Bach's more sorrowful cantatas featuring solo bass voice are featured here. The first two, Ich habe genug, BWV 82, and Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen, BWV 56, have doleful, slow-opening arias balanced by consoling central arias, and both close with morbid sentiments -- "Ich freue mich auf meinen Tod" (I Look Forward to my Death) in the former, and "Komm, o Tod" (Come, oh Death) in the latter. The third cantata, Der Friede sei mit dir, BWV 158, has a tender opening aria offset by a mournful closing chorale. Only the fourth cantata, Amore traditore, BWV 203, with its dance-like opening aria and bravura closing relieves the mood.

The performances, on the other hand, are consistently positive. Bass Klaus Mertens has a supple but powerful voice and his interpretations are more lyric than dramatic. With his carefully modulated tone and a buoyant feeling for tempo, he is able to keep Bach's music lively even when the topic is mortality. Koopman leads assertive but sensitive accompaniments that complement Mertens's agile approach. The Dutch musicians are on point and the instrumental soloist are uniformly excellent. Antonie Marchand's digital sound is clear, open, and immediate.

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