Compared with the other ongoing series of Bach's cantatas, those of conductor Masaaki Suzuki and his historical-instrument Bach Collegium Japan are quite restrained in their basic outlook. There are warmer, more humanistic readings (such as those by John Eliot Gardiner), and there are northern European performances that make greater use of the edge Baroque-era instruments can bring. Suzuki's virtues are extreme clarity and an attention to detail that can often coalesce into moments of jewel-like beauty. If you've been thinking of giving Suzuki's rather pricey Bach discs a try, this group of Leipzig cantatas from 1724 shows off his methods to good advantage. The opening chorales in these cantatas are unusually complex, and a couple of them are weighty enough that they feel like the centerpieces of the cantatas in which they appear. The choral parts are balanced by dense orchestral writing that in two cases includes cornets and trombones. Suzuki chisels out sonic space for this bottom-heavy writing in works whose point would be lost in a big, modern chorally centered reading. He is quite attuned to Bach's way of developing a really radically deep conception from everyday materials, as in the opening chorus of Nimm von uns Herr, du treuer Gott, BWV 101, track 7. In the opening Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, BWV 91, Suzuki's approach seems unorthodox: this is a splendid score with horns and timpani, and listeners who like a triumphalist mood in such works will find the reading here too laid-back. But again Suzuki brings out passing dissonances and other details that most conductors miss. The four soloists (only soprano Yukari Nonoshita is Japanese) mold their voices perfectly to Suzuki's aims; most impressive, perhaps, is countertenor Robin Blaze, who manages a precise, quiet tone with an intimacy that's rare in the annals of this generally flamboyant voice type. Likewise supporting Suzuki expertly are the sound engineers at Sweden's BIS label, whose SACD recording has both transparency and depth. This is a fine set of fairly obscure Bach cantatas, recommended as both a single-disc purchase and for those following the series.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Cantata No. 91, "Gelobet seist su, Jesu Christ," BWV 91 (BC A9)|
|Cantata No. 101, "Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott," BWV 101 (BC A118)|
|Cantata No. 121, "Christum wir sollen loben schon," BWV 121 (BC A13)|
|Cantata No. 133, "Ich freue mich in dir," BWV 133 (BC A16)|