This 2008 Harmonia Mundi recording of Philippe Herreweghe leading the Collegium Vocale Gent represents Bach at his most poetically grim. Opening with "Wer weiss, wie nahe mir mein Ende" (Who knows how soon my end is) (BWV 27) and closing with "Komm, du susse Todesstunde" (Come, sweet hour of death) (BWV 161), it incarnates the grim ethos of the great Baroque composer.
Herreweghe's recording is warmly polished and deeply expressive. The vocal soloists, particularly the sweet soprano Dorothee Mields in "Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke" (I am content with my fate) (BWV 84), are consistently impressive. The chorus is small, only 16 voices, but its refined tone, clear articulation, and sheer enthusiasm are winning, especially in the polyphonic choral that opens "Christus, der ist mein Leben" (Christ, there is my Life) (BWV 95). Herreweghe is an able and expressive Bach conductor who knows how to clarify dense counterpoint and reveal the emotional and spiritual core of a work. For those listeners who can either ignore or embrace poetic ideas like "Come, put an end to my distress, O long desired death" from the tenor aria in "Christus, der ist mein Leben," this disc will offer substantial rewards. Those looking for more upbeat sentiments should look elsewhere. Harmonia Mundi's digital sound is richly detailed and lushly colorful.