Bach: Cantatas, Vol. 38
Classical music listeners who feel they're living in a dry spell would do well to consider that our time has its advantages like any other. The range of ambitious, entirely distinctive recordings of Bach's vocal music would be one -- any of the cantata series going on would be cause for celebration in itself. The cantata recordings of historical-instrument specialist Masaaki Suzuki and his Bach Collegium Japan excel not in the humanistic warmth of a John Eliot Gardiner, but in sheer, chiseled detail that almost makes you feel like you're one of the performers. This set of four essentially nonchoral cantatas (no choir is present here) provides a chance to hear Suzuki in the small-scale environment in which he is arguably at his best: each aria seems to float over a constellation of murmuring instruments, each of which has its place in Bach's cosmos. Suzuki has used various soloists and has been able to intelligently match them with repertoire, and nowhere more so than here. British soprano Carolyn Sampson, even if she clips the final vowel of the word "immerhin" a bit short, is an ideal partner to Suzuki; her voice is not large, but it's plenty attractive and beautifully alert to Suzuki's constantly shifting textures. Bass Peter Kooij is another standout in the title canatata "Ich habe genug, BWV 82" (rendered in the track list as "ich habe genung" and thus denting the steely perfection that is part of the BIS aesthetic). He specializes in just the sort of quietly sensuous, sustained, carefully phrased approach that is Suzuki's hallmark, and the result is a standout performance of that famed cantata. The instrumental passages are virtuoso accomplishments. Hear the opening "Sinfonia" (track 1) of the cantata "Falsche Welt, dir trau ich nict, BWV52," with its natural horns forced down to a preternaturally quiet dynamic level and silkily woven into the texture. BIS recording engineers, working in a specially designed chapel in Suzuki's hometown of Kobe, have delivered another sonic masterpiece. Another low-key triumph from Suzuki that will stand up to numerous hearings.