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GRAMOPHONE (10 /2013)
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Appréciation d'ensemble / Overall evaluation : "This is another strong release as we approach the finishing line".

Reviewer: Jonathan Freeman-Attwood

No 197 and related fragment for penultimate BCJ cantata disc

Bach’s sacred cantata-writing was almost non-existent by the mid-1730s which is why, in this penultimate volume of Masaaki Suzuki’s steady chronological 18-year journey, the curtain is shortly to fall on this sixth complete series of recorded cantatas – and the era of ‘completes’ will doubtless hibernate for a while.


Immediately striking from the last volume (8/13) is how the final version of three cantata settings on the hymn ‘Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan’ reintroduces us to the chiselled late-Bachian woodwind dialogues of ‘Es ist das Heil’ (Cantata No 9), though now partnered by the festive adrenalin of horns and timpani. Suzuki and Bach Collegium Japan stamp their unmistakable trademark of concentrated corporate luminosity here, if occasionally soured by some flatness in the chorus sopranos. In sharp contrast, the austerely contrapuntal (and barely known) No 14 – a work whose late provenance always surprises – is wonderfully internalised by Suzuki in its opening and awestruck reflections on God’s protective powers. The solo singing throughout has, curiously, many of the features of the final volumes of the pioneering Leonhardt/Harnoncourt complete series, with new and old singers in the prime or autumn of their careers. Hana Blažíková has been a distinguished new arrival, Gerd Türk ever-consistent over the decades (if only represented by a single recitative here), and Peter Kooij’s balletic work in the fourth verse of No 100 shows both the wonders and fallibilities of the weathered sail.


Rather like Barbara Bonney’s arrival in 1988 at the close of the Teldec set, Damien Guillon (emerging from a distinguished solo Bach disc for Zig-Zag last year – A/12) is, one suspects, the last solo addition to the project. Similar to the alluring vocal personality of Bonney in Mein Herze schwimmt in Blut for Harnoncourt 25 years ago, Guillon brings an exquisitely inflected approach to ‘Schläfert’ from No 197.


This fine little ‘scena’, from Bach’s rich repository of slumber arias, is set up by Masamitsu San’nomiya’s engrossing oboe d’amore-playing and Suzuki’s refined gaze upon God’s Leitstern or ‘guiding star’. This is another strong release as we approach the finishing line.

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