Andreas Scholl has come a long way since singing Bach as a boy chorister with his local church. The experience instilled in him a deep affinity for this repertoire, as evidenced by several fine discs for Harmonia Mundi. For Decca, the German countertenor has released an album featuring two of the most famous solo cantatas, each showcasing the sonorous, sinewy strength of his tone, particularly when it is focused on long, sombre lines. With assured diction he brings out the meaning of the text, most persuasively the haunting catharsis that comes with a wish for death in BWV82.
Kammerorchester Basel’s tempo in Ich habe genug, intended to play to Scholl’s strengths, crawls along at the same pace as Janet Baker’s classic if somewhat old-fashioned reading on EMI. Scholl is all subtlety and poise, using minimal vibrato and eschewing the histrionics that have dogged the aria elsewhere, but his efforts to convey the words compromise the fluidity of the sublime melody. The final movement Ich Freue Mich auf Meinen Tod, which usually hastens towards the desired release of death, here drags with little tonal or dynamic variation.
Scholl finds his way back to the freer approach of his previous Bach album in Gott soll allein BWV169, where he is resolute and propulsive without sacrificing the delicate touches so expertly underscored by florid organ. The lilt of the minor-key aria Stirb in Mir is mesmerising, and slow really works well in the album closer Schlage doch BWV53 (misattributed – actually by Melchior Hoffmann), with its meditative bells.