Reviewed by Steven Whitehead
Johann Sebastian Bach's motets, most of them composed during the 1730s, occupy a special position in his output: nowhere else did he devote such careful attention to the musical expression of the text; never did he exploit so great a variety of tone-colours, texture and effects. And the result is one of the summits of Western polyphony. Whether they are festive or funereal the six pieces for small choir are full of variety but all underpinned by Bach's exuberant joy. Collected together for our pleasure are "Singet Dem Herrn Ein Neues Lied" ("Sing Unto The Lord A New Song") Bwv 225, "Der Geist Hilft Unser Schwachheit Auf" ("Likewise The Spirit Also Helpeth Our Infirmities") Bwv 226, "Jesu, Meine Freude" ("Jesus, My Joy") Bwv 227, "Fürchte Dich Nicht" ("Fear Not") Bwv 228, "Komm, Jesu, Komm" (Come, Jesu, Come") Bwv 229 and "Lobet Den Herrn, Alle Heiden" (O Praise The Lord, All Ye Nations") BWV 230. As a general guide, any time René Jacobs picks up his baton to conduct Bach the results are worth hearing and when he stands before the RIAS Kammerchor with soloists of the quality of Sibylla Rubens, Maria Cristina Kiehr, Bernarda Fink, Gerd Türk and Peter Kooy we know we are in for a treat. One caveat: this 2017 release on the budget label Musique D'Abord is, by my reckoning, the third time the album has been issued, each time with a different cover. A second caveat: Bach's Motets have been recorded by many and various choirs, often with their own take on the original. As always, you pay your money and make your choice but there is nothing wrong with Jacobs' version and lots that is right so this is an easy recommendation.
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