Klassik-Heute 10/10/10 February 2012.
Three cantatas from 1729 gathered on the 50th volume of Masaaki Suzuki’s traversal of J.S. Bach’s cantatas testifies to a huge loss to music – along with another six works, they are all that remain of what was probably an entire year’s worth of cantatas, composed by Bach in collaboration with the Leipzig poet Picander (Christian Friedrich Henrici). Some fifty cantatas from this year are unaccounted for, but on the evidence of those that are still extant, it is still possible to see the outlines of the lost cantata year. Fairly concise, the cantatas generally make sparing use of the choir. Instead they centre on two arias, linked by one or two recitatives, and a final chorale. In addition, the surviving works contain several examples of parody – movements in which Bach combined Picander’s words with an already existing composition – as well as the reuse of earlier instrumental movements as introductions. A striking example is the opening Sinfonia of BWV 174, where Bach used the first movement of his Third Brandenburg Concerto, adding new parts for three horns and for a tutti section consisting of two violins, viola and three oboes. Another highlight may also be the result of a borrowing – the soprano aria Gottes Engel… from BWV149 is a minuet, complete with the polonaise accents fashionable at the time, and could well have served a secular purpose at another occasion. It is here performed by Hana Blažíková, appearing on this disc alongside three other familiar soloists of the series: Robin Blaze (counter-tenor), Gerd Türk (tenor) and Peter Kooij (bass). With another five discs to go before completing their monumental task, Masaaki Suzuki and his Bach Collegium Japan are in no way flagging, as proven by this splendid instalment, and by recent releases which have received critical acclaim, for instance in International Record Review, where Volume 48 was described as demonstrating ‘the ever-rising standard, by now quite stratospheric, of Suzuki and his choir and orchestra in this massive recording project.’