Reviewed by Steven Whitehead
In spite of the fact that more than 15 years have passed since Masaaki Suzuki and his Bach Collegium Japan began recording all of Bach's church cantatas, the team's commitment seems if anything to be increasing as this huge project enters its final stretch. In the present volume Masaaki Suzuki has gathered four works from 1728-29, with the common denominator that the texts for them were all written by the poet Christian Friedrich Henrici. Using the pseudonym "Picander", Henrici collaborated with Bach on numerous occasions, most famously so in the St Matthew Passion and the Christmas Oratorio. The present cantata texts were included by the poet in a volume which contains similar texts spanning the entire church year, and it seems possible that Bach set the full cycle to music. As there are only nine extant "Picander cantatas", this would mean that some 50 Bach cantatas have been lost without trace - a significant loss to music. The four works gathered here hint at the variety that may have characterized the Bach-Picander cantata year, with moods spanning from the jubilation of the New Year Cantata (BWV171) to the anticipation of Jesus' path of suffering in "Sehet, wir gehn hinauf gen Jerusalem", (BWV159), intended for the Sunday before Passiontide. There is also variety on a more technical level, with BWV188 and BWV156 both beginning with instrumental sinfonias featuring important solo parts for organ and oboe respectively. Possibly the fact that Bach was working with a trusted lyricist freed him to concentrate on the instrumentation, as this aspect really stands out, most notably Suzuki's own playing of the organ in the opening sinfonia.. However this is not to belittle the singing as, yet again, Suzuki gets a wonderful performance from his Japanese choir and European soloists.
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