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ClassicsOnline Home » BACH, J.S.: Cantatas, BWV 80 and 147
Simply the best
When it comes to performances of Bach's Cantatas, one must always be aware that they were written to be performed in Church, not in a Recital Hall or a Recording Studio. This is something nearly every other rendition of the Cantatas that fail to take into consideration, and particularly with regard to BWV 80. The Reformation Sunday Cantata is meant to be alive with vigor: that is what this recording has in bunches.
Firstly, the sound quality across the disc is what you would expect to hear in any decent sized Cathedral - exactly as Bach intended. So while the quality in the recording isn't up to studio standards, it sounds authentic - much more so than those versions recorded in studios.
Secondly, even though the solo performers are Hungarian, and hence German is not their mother-tongue, they do a great job in, not just singing the lines, but getting to the intent of the words, and putting some effort into conveying the message Bach had in mind. Ingrid Kertesi is a star in her own right and should be more widely known - her voice is different to most contemporary sopranos, and would be more recognizable to Bach himself as it lacks that overbearing vibrato that grates on me - think Dame Joan Sutherland, who I think Bach would be putting in the chorus, not out front, remembering that singers in Bach's time were all male, including the sopranos.
The subsequent addition of drums by WF Bach is something most performers seeking to be 'authentic' leave out. I think, not only would JS Bach approve of his son's additions, he would kick himself he hadn't thought of it in the first place. There is no question they add to the majesty of the performances, which again is something most other versions of the Cantatas miss.
The Failoni Chamber Orchestra is a terrific orchestra, and Antal manages to get the orchestra as involved in the performances as the vocalists. Once again, there's fire and passion that are totally lacking in most other versions of the Cantatas. My one wish is that, one day, the whole ensemble might get together and do the full cycle like many other people have.
I have two versions of BWV 80. I would guess most people take the Karl Richter version over this because it's Karl Richter with Fischer-Dieskau et. al. But again, it is sterile compared to this 'cheap' Naxos version. I'll have this version over anything else.
Another disc by the same ensemble worth gold is BWV 51 - simply stunning again.more....
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)
Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, BWV 80
Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV
The career of Johann Sebastian Bach, the most illustrious of a
prolific musical family, falls neatly into three unequal parts. Born in 1685 in Eisenach,
from the age of ten Bach lived and studied music with his elder brother in Ohrdruf, after
the death of both his parents. After a series of appointments as organist and briefly as a
court musician, he became, in 1708, court organist and chamber musician to Duke Wilhelm
Ernst of Weimar, the elder of the two brothers who jointly ruled the duchy. In 1714 he was
promoted to the position of Konzertmeister to the Duke, but in 1717, after a brief period
of imprisonment for his temerity in seeking to leave the Duke's service, he abandoned
Weimar to become Court Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen, a position he
held until 1723. From then until his death in 1750 he lived in Leipzig, where he was
Thomaskantor, with responsibility for the music of the five principal city churches, in
1729 assuming direction of the university collegium musicum, founded by Telemann in 1702.
At Weimar Bach had been principally
employed as an organist, and his compositions of the period include a considerable amount
written for the instrument on which he was recognised as a virtuoso performer. At Cöthen,
where Pietist traditions dominated the court, he had no church duties, and was responsible
rather for court music. The period brought the composition of a number of instrumental
works. The final 27 years of Bach's life brought a variety of preoccupations, and while
his official employment necessitated the provision of church music, he was able to provide
music for the university collegium musicum and or write or re-arrange a number of
important works for the keyboard.
Cantata, Ein feste Burg, BWV 80, was adapted from an earlier cantata, Alles, was von Gott geboren
The cantata, scored for oboes,
including oboe d'amore, oboe da caccia and cor anglais, strings and basso continuo, with
soprano, alto, tenor and bass singers, opens with a polyphonic treatment of the first
verse of Martin Luther's well known hymn, Ein feste
Burg, using the four voices, with oboes, strings and continuo. The aria that
follows combines the soprano statement of the second verse, in aversion of the original
chorale melody, with Franck's words sung by the bass. The aria is introduced by the upper
strings in unison over the continuo, leading to an oboe aria, Komm in meinem Herzenshaus, with its economical basso
continuo accompaniment. The instrumental ensemble of two oboe d'amore, cor anglais,
appearance of a matching version of Luther's third stanza, sung by all the singers in
unison. The following tenor recitative and duet for alto and tenor, with its oboe da
caccia and solo violin accompaniment, Wie selig sind
doch dir, use words by Franck. The final chorale is a magnificent statement of
Bach's monumental harmonization of the original hymn.
The cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147, again
represents an original work from Bach's period at the court of Weimar. With a text by
Franck, it was first written for performance on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, 20th
December, 1716. Again the original music has been lost and the surviving version was
intended for use in Leipzig on the Feast of the Visitation, 2nd July, possibly in 1723.
The work is scored for soprano, oboe da caccia, strings and basso continuo.
The opening polyphonic chorus, with its virtuoso clarino
trumpet obbligato leads to an accompanied tenor recitative, followed by the alto aria Schäme dich, with its oboe d'amore and continuo
accompaniment. A bass recitative is succeeded by a soprano aria with a triplet solo violin
obbligato, Bereite dir, Jesu. The first part
of the work ends with a chorale, one of the best known of all Bach cantata movements, in
which the trumpet accompanies the chorale melody. The second part starts with a tenor
aria, Hilf, Jesu, hilf, leading to an alto
recitative, with words based on the first chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke. This is
followed by the bass aria, Ich will von Jesu Wunden
singen, with accompanying trumpet and oboes doubling the violins. The familiar
chorale returns in all its confident grandeur in conclusion.
Matyás Antal was born in 1945 into a
family of musicians and completed his training at the Ferenc Liszt Academy in Budapest as
a flautist and a conductor. In 1972, the year after his graduation, he joined the
Hungarian State Orchestra as a flautist, but in the last ten years has been principally
employed as a conductor, specialising initially in contemporary music. In 1984 he was
appointed chorus-master of the Budapest Choir and two years later became associate
conductor of the Hungarian State Orchestra. He appears frequently as a conductor in his
native country as weIl as in East and West Germany, Austria and Greece, and has made a
number of recordings for Hungaroton.
Failoni Chamber Orchestra
The Failoni Chamber Orchestra was
founded in 1981 by members of the Hungarian State Opera Orchestra. Under the leadership of
the violinist Bela Nágy, the orchestra has taken part in a number of important
international festivals and in Hungary only yields first place to the longer established
Ferenc Liszt Chamber Orchestra. The orchestra takes its name from the distinguished
Italian conductor Sergio Failoni, conductor of the Hungarian State Opera from 1928 until
his death twenty years later.
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BACH, J.S.: Cantatas, BWV 80 and 147