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Reviewer :
Jonathan Freeman-Attwood

Despite its saccharine title, this concise programme of Bach’s most famous soprano cantatas reveals Amanda Forsythe to be a highly accomplished Bach singer. The outer movements of Jauchzet Gott are state-of-the-art in their fearlessly agile coloratura, accompanied by Steven Marquardt’s evenly articulated trumpet obbligato. Forsythe is also admirably committed to a clarity and direction of line that gives the Wedding Cantata Weichet nur a sense of touching intimacy recalling the high watermarks of Maria Stader and Elly Ameling. Her prime instrumental partner here is a suitably languid oboe (Debra Nagy) for the opening, and a slightly less refined but buoyantly energetic solo cello in ‘Phoebus eilt’. Here, Forsythe captures wonderfully the excitable lover ‘hastening with swift horses’; likewise in the subsequent aria, she portrays with glee the flirtatious Cupid craftily stoking the amorous prospects of the happy couple.


Less persuasive is a tendency for Forsythe to bulge through certain notes in the middle movements of Cantata No 51 and the early stages of No 202. More eccentric is the chorale that precedes the final ‘Alleluja’ of the former work, where the voice takes on a kind of ‘alter ego’, delivering a forced didactic message without recourse to the enveloping beauty of the hymn around the concerted violins. If Anna Magdalena was the soloist in the premiere in September 1730 (which we don’t know), one imagines that conveying the gritty fervour in the music would have been a greater priority. These are small reservations in a satisfying programme, enhanced by two finely etched arias from the St John Passion, including an ‘Ich folge’ of fetching discipleship. The whole is passionately accompanied by the Cleveland-based Apollo’s Fire under its director Jeannette Sorrell.


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