Masaaki Suzuki and Bach Collegium Japan have never been content to rest on their considerable laurels. Having completed the Herculean task of recording all of Johann Sebastian Bach’s sacred cantatas in 2013, they have continued to explore the master’s diverse range of secular cantatas, arriving at this volume of celebratory works.
Along the way Suzuki and his forces have revealed the richness of Bach’s musical imagination and his sense of humour in these works. The very first volume of the series recorded back in 2003 contains arguably his most popular secular cantata, the so-called Coffee Cantata (BWV211), in a robust account with soprano Carolyn Sampson as the wayward, coffee-drinking daughter and bass Stephan Schreckenberger as her strict and exasperated father.
In the fourth volume, the glorious wedding cantata, Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten (BWV202) is radiantly sung by soprano Joanne Lunn, while in the seventh volume the Peasant Cantata (BWV212) is given a lively and well-paced performance featuring soprano Mojca Erdmann and bass Dominik Wörner.
Other volumes in the series neatly group together various works: academic cantatas, cantatas for birthdays and funerals; reminding us that most of these cantatas were written to order.
The state events that occasioned the works in this eighth volume centre on Augustus III, elector of Saxony. Bach was already working on Schleicht, spielende Wellen (BWV206) for the monarch’s birthday in October 1734, when a state visit to Leipzig was suddenly announced to celebrate the first anniversary of Augustus’s election as King of Poland. Work on that piece was shelved while Preise dein Glück, gesegnetes Sachsen (BWV215) was hastily put together.
Each soloist in BWV206 (Glide, Playful Waves) takes the symbolic role of a river; their confluence expressing political peace and stability. Apart from regal trumpets, Bach uses a ‘choir’ of three flutes to charming effect.
BVW 215 (Praise your Fortune, Blessed Saxony) was probably assembled in three days. Understandably, the Thomaskantor recycled material from other works. The impressive opening double chorus came from a previous work honouring Augustus, which was itself reused, recycled later as the Osanna of the Mass in B Minor.
The soloists on this disc, Hana Blažíková, Hiroya Aoki, Charles Daniels and Roderick Williams, are all in sparkling form, as are Suzuki’s chorus and orchestra, again bringing clarity and insight to the music. A fittingly triumphant issue. Bravi!