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Artist: Masaaki Suzuki / Bach Collegium Japan
Editorial fatigue seems to have set in with this 48th release in the ongoing Bach cantata cycle by conductor Masaaki Suzuki and his Bach Collegium Japan, for the graphics misrepresent the contents. They promise the presence of a Cantata No. 48, but what's actually included first is the Cantata No. 34, BWV 34 ("O ewiges Feuer, o Ursprung der Liebe"); the Cantata No. 48 is not included. Furthermore, the classification principle for the program is that these are "Cantatas from Leipzig, 1727-29"; in fact, at least one and probably two of the cantatas do not fit that description. The Cantata No. 120, BWV 120 ("Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille"), which closes out the program, was composed as late as 1742. On top of these, Bach's little motto "soli Deo gloria" ("to the glory of God alone") is misstated in the booklet notes. All this said, the musical content of the release upholds the strong reputation of Suzuki's series. The 16-voice membership of the Bach Collegium Japan is optimal, and the Baroque instrumentalists, especially the brasses, have the precision that's happily typical of the series. All four cantatas presented here, although not the most splendid ones in the canon, are substantial pieces evidently intended for some kind of public event, and it is in the big outer choruses, with chorale melodies threaded so artfully into places where it hardly seems possible that they could appear, that Suzuki is at his best, with superbly clear textures. The most notable item on the program is the Cantata No. 117, BWV 117 ("Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut"), with its wonderfully various setting of all nine verses of its underlying chorale; Suzuki is the conductor you want in this kind of piece. The presence of countertenor Robin Blaze, with his uncanny voice quality, is a bonus; his voice fits the dimensions of Suzuki's music-making extremely well.
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