With this album of Bach cantatas, Japanese conductor and historical-performance specialist Masaaki Suzuki and his Bach Collegium Japan approach the end of their magisterial cycle of Bach's cantatas. The works included here are something of a miscellany, and it may be that the selections of the previous releases have brought this one down to odds and ends; the works have little in common beyond being from the later part of Bach's career. Two are nonliturgical, and one of those is a wedding cantata whose second half bears the amusing subtitle "post copulationem" (probably what was meant was simply that the first half of the work was played before the vows and the second half after, but if using the recording for your own wedding, it should be considered). The slightly random nature of the program, however, marks the end of the list of possible complaints about this performance, which shows no evidence whatsover of flagging energy on the musicians' part. All the virtues of Suzuki's series are here in abundance, including brilliant clarity at quick tempos in the big trumpet-and-drum movements, a certain effortless quality, and ethereal coordination with the soloists, who for the most part are regulars from earlier in the cycle. The newcomer this time is the countertenor Damien Guillon, a young, nicely delicate voice that bears watching. If you want an idea of what Suzuki's Bach is all about, sample the soprano aria, track 3, from the Cantata N. 100, Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan, BWV 100, with its blistering flute part and dense interaction with the vocal soloist. Suzuki, here as everywhere, makes it sound easy when it most assuredly was not. If this is your first experience with Suzuki, you could do much worse, although you might start with some of the more famous cantatas.
Bach: Cantatas, Vol. 54 Review
by James Manheim