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Cat. No. CHAN 0742 Price: £10.5 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 0742 - Bach: Weimar Cantatas
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Available From: 01 June 2007
The Weimar cantatas belong to a period in Bach’s life when he had taken the title of ‘Concertmaster’ at the Weimar court. The principal condition of his new post was an obligation to produce a new church cantata on a monthly basis, a task to which Bach applied himself with great zeal. Previously, he had composed vocal music infrequently and only as particular occasions demanded. He now faced the task of writing cantatas at regular intervals for Sundays and feast days of the liturgical year. There arose a series of some thirty cantatas, with free verse texts as the essential basis for the composition of recitatives and da capo arias, entirely lacking from Bach’s earliest cantatas. Of great significance for Bach was his encounter with the modern Italian style, to which the Weimar court orchestra began to adapt itself. From then on a thoroughly worked-out setting for the outer voices, with concise and unified thematic material and a clearly articulated plan of modulation, typical of Vivaldi, remained an essential element in Bach’s style of composition. This technique was coupled with complex counterpoint, a distinct and lively texture of middle voices, and harmonic finesse, the whole elevated to a highly characteristic level.

Uniquely, The Purcell Quartet employs single voices – no choir – which is in keeping with evidence of what Bach himself used. The stance is still controversial, but recreates the works as they would have been performed originally, and therefore stands out from the more conventional approach, the product of subsequent developments of massed choral singing. Accompanied by The Purcell Quartet and their guest instrumentalists, the voices, their lines and hence also the meaning of the texts, are allowed to stand out and make their full effect. Included on this disc are BWV 61 Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, deservedly one of the most popular of Bach’s cantatas, and one of Bach’s most tranquil and beautifully expressive works, and BWV 161 Komm, du süße Todesstunde, and they benefit greatly from performances by one of today’s most popular early music groups.

The Weimar cantatas of J.S. Bach form an exceptional body of work and it is thrilling to hear them performed in a way that Bach would have recognised.
Reviews

…a performance of great musical versatility.
Gramophone on CHAN 0715

The Purcell Quartet and guests are most welcome: even the most distinguished of period performers with larger ensembles can’t achieve the intimacy that the forces here have at their disposal.
International Record Review

The Purcell quartet – two violins, cello and continuo, augmented by two violas, recorders, oboe, bassoon, and trumpet – reflect the meagre forces available to Bach… All four singers approach their often testing lines with expressive freedom…With no designated ‘conductor’, this is chamber music, warmed by the acoustic environment of a London church. The resulting clarity is delightful.
BBC Music Magazine

For sheer brilliance of technique, the Purcell Quartet and friends take the biscuit.
International Record Review on CHAN 0715

The singers throw themselves into the drama, and each creates a strong character. Davies is a dry, pompous Kolenaty; Graham Clark’s Hauk-Sendorf goes just the right distance over the top; Elena Xanthoudakis makes a sweet young thing out of Kristina. Robert Brubaker brings ardour and some lyric freshness to Gregor. Cheryl Barker sinks her teeth into the central role of Emilia Marty, her tone full and rich when required, or hard and imperious.
American Record Guide

A disc of Bach Cantatas is like a Christmas stocking: you reach in expectantly and pull out delights. These four works from his early years in Weimar are performed in the modern historical manner, using the soloists as chorus, and the singers’ merits suffuse the ensembles without distorting them. The lamenting first chorus of Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen has never sounded so cleanly heartbroken. The opening aria, beautifully taken by Chance, of Komm, du süße todesstunde paints death as a prelude to bliss, chirpy recorders and solemn organ symbolically juxtaposed.
The Sunday Times

 

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