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Cat. No. CHAN 0715 Price: £10.5 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 0715 - Bach: Early Cantatas, Volume 1
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Available From: 07 February 2005
The chorale tunes in the Lutheran Masses are literally ‘people’s music’, public property in that Luther gathered them together for domestic as well as ecclesiastical use. Some were recycled liturgical melodies, some especially composed, and some specially adapted, and some adapted from secular folksongs, more often erotic than pious, as Luther did not believe that the Devil should have all the good tunes! Through his settings, we can sense Bach’s devoutness, but the popular and communal nature of the tunes – created not primarily by Bach but by the People and the Lutheran Church – is not relinquished.

Aus der Tiefen rufe ich Herr, zu dir, BWV 131 seems to have been commissioned by St Blasius’ to commemorate a savage municipal fire that had ravaged the town in the previous year, 1706. The words, mostly from Psalm 130, inspire Bach to an appropriate grandeur and monumentality, though the work is scored modestly for strings.

Der Herr denket an uns, BWV 196 is a longer and grander act of praise, not in tragic G minor but in ‘white’ C major, emblematic of Light. The so-called Actus tragicus (Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit, BWV 106) is perhaps so named because, although Bach is said to have been a mere twenty years old at the time of its writing, it embraces the essential tragic experience of Christ on the Cross with the utmost profundity.

The cantata Christ lag in Todes Banden, BWV 4 also confronts death in a youthful calm, although its basic key is E minor, for Bach had a penitential key and, indeed, his key of Crucifixion in the B minor Mass. The words, probably chosen and arranged by the young Bach, refer directly to the struggle between life and death, leaving us in no doubt as to which will be victorious.

…exquisite… the four singers are such brilliant virtuosi that the counterpoint emerges with unrivalled clarity. These are spirited performances, in splendidly lifelike recorded sound.
The Sunday Times on CHAN 0653 (Bach Lutheran Masses, Vol. 2)

…a gracious and gratifying exposé of the F minor and A major settings of the Ordinary, sensitively performed in alert and honest chamber-scaled performances…
Gramophone ‘Critics’ Choice’ on CHAN 0642 (Bach Lutheran Masses, Vol. 1)

These are outstanding ensemble performances of music which, had Bach died in his early twenties, would be hailed as unrivalled masterpieces.
Early Music Review

An expert recording in an amenable acoustic completes a release of many refined pleasures.
Gramophone on CHAN 0691 (Buxtehude)


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