This selection of tenor arias from Bach cantatas is the first project from Queensland tenor Gregory Massingham’s Cantus Music Australia. All of them feature an obbligato part for flute, oboe and oboe d’amore, violin or, in one instance, a violoncello piccolo (here played on a cello); the continuo section comprises organ and either cello or bassoon. Massingham, a former student of Peter Pears (though his tone and technique are more reminiscent of Peter Schreier’s), writes eloquently of Bach’s musical rhetoric, and of the broader spiritual significance of these deeply religious works.
The cantatas range from the famous (Cantata 78: Jesu der du Meine Seele) to the less well-known (Cantata 97: In Allen Meinen Taten), the mood from bleak (Where, in this vale of sorrows) to joyful (Stir yourself! Your shepherd knocks). Throughout, words are central, and both singer and instrumentalists strive to bring out not just the relationship between text and setting but the emotion that binds the two (try Massingham’s empathetic handling of Bach’s word-painting in arias such as Do not deal with us according to your law.)
Note that Massingham has generously made this recording available as a free download from cantusmusic.net. Here you’ll find other resources, including articles originally written for Massingham’s Queensland Conservatorium students. It’s definitely worth a visit.