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Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion

Cantata BWV 21
Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis
Discussions - Part 1

Fasolis, redux

Harry J. Steinman wrote (July 6, 1999):
[17] Some weeks ago, Ehud and others called attention to a recording of the Magnificat (BWV 243) conducted by Diego Fasolis (it includes the Ensemble Vanitas and the chorus "della Radio Svizzera"). I ordered and received this outstanding disc a few weeks ago, and I have just one word: Holey Smokes!

(The disc is on the Arts label, 47374-2, and I ordered from www.allegro-music.com which has, by the way, a rather tasty catalog of JSB and others. Their entire catalog is downloadable as an Excel or an Adobe .pdf file)

I wish I had a musician's vocabulary to describe this wonderful disc, but I can tell you it makes me very happy to listen to it. This Magnificat begins with a horn fanfare that ought to satisfy both the HIP and modern instrument afficianados: It's clear, crisp and holds its own with the rest of the ensemble. Tempi throughout are bright without being rushed (of the 12 movements, only the "Et misericordia" exceeds three minutes...although I don't have another Magnificat with which to compare this one for timing) and soloist voices are properly focused; I don't remember suffering through any vibrato.

I had never listened to the Magnificat before and this was a superb intro to the work.

I must also say that I thought that BWV 21, (included on the recording along with motet BWV 225) was worth the $10 price. This glorious cantata included some wonderful moments for me, such as the soprano/bass duet, "Komm, mein Jesu" (Mvt. 8) and the chorus, "Sei nun wieder zufrieden" a marvellous piece in which the three soloists sing the theme in counterpoint (contrary motion, the liner notes explain) whicle the tenors from the chorus sing a chorale. I find it especially difficult to listen to the entire cantata without simply repeating this composition over and over.

The motet, "Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied" (BWV 225), written for eight voices in a double choir, is a gem. The first section is densely polyphonic and the second assigns two different texts to the two choirs. The final section combines all of the voices into a monumental four-voice fugue.

I could go on rhapsodizing about this disc, but I'd rather just listen to it. Anybody that wants to invest US$10 well might consider acquiring this CD. And to those who first recommended Fasolis I must say, "Thank you"

 

Bach Cantata 21

Patrick Enander wrote (September 20, 1999):
Thanks to Steve S for directing me to his excellent review of vol 1 & 2 of Ton Koopman's Bach series!

[13] I read with particular interest the description of cantata BWV 21 Ich habe viel bekümmernis. (Harmonia Mundi HMC 901328). Right now I'm bowled over by Herreweghe's version with Collegium Vocale, Barbara Schlick, Gerard Lesne and Peter Harvey, all excellent.

Steve describes the recitative "Wie hast du mich mein Gott..." and the following aria "Bache von gesalznen Zahren..." as sung by a soprano. On Herreweghe's version this is sung by Howard Crook and is one of many high points on this CD (Another one is Gerard Lesne 's 10 minute-aria on BWV 42, it makes my spine shiver!)

My question is: Is there more than one version of BWV 21?

Patrick Enander wrote (January 21, 2000):
(Ponseele playing in) BWV 82 with Kuijken, BWV 131 and BWV 21 with Herreweghe [13] is magic to me.

Ryan Michero wrote (February 1, 2000):
Well, I just listened to BWV 82 with Kuijken last night. WOW. You're right, Patrik. I no longer object to the use of the word "sublime" when discussing Marcel Ponseele. He is a player of rare musical feeling and tonal beauty.

Patrik Enander wrote (April 6, 2000):
Today I popped in to the library, They have bought the Teldec Bach edition, and I found cantata BWV 21 conducted by Harnoncourt [9].

Yesterday I listened to Suzuki's new version [22] (I'm not ready to compare it with Herreweghe [13] yet, Piotr!) Not being a very experienced Bach listener, I was in for a chock. The Sinfonia (Mvt. 1) was OK, but the fist choral part was sung horribly fast, and with boy sopranos! I've read about this, but only have experienced in Leonhardt's St. Matthew. I don't like it all. I remember that the boy soprano didn't pitch the notes, it sounded a bit false, and it ruins these arias.

I found it almost ridiculous to hear the dialogue between Jesus and the soul, this tiny boy, even though I'm impressed by the fact that he can sing this difficult music, and van Egmond's full bass. Compare this to Suzuki and Herreweghe's versions!

To be honest, I only listen to small parts of the CD since I was in a hurry, but didn't enjoy it all. It was Herreweghe who made me love Bach's choral music, this wouldn't have done the same job.

Comment's anyone.

Matthew Westphal wrote (April 7, 2000):
That's a standard problem with modern performances of Bach by boys' choirs. Bach wrote the upper parts in his church music for 14-17-year-old boys who were full-time music students; we shouldn't be surprised that 9-12-year-old boys can't quite manage the music properly. That's why I prefer the use of female sopranos who sound at least a bit like boys (as opposed to opera divas) -- the female sopranos who sing in Herreweghe's choir and who do solo and choral work for Suzuki and McCreesh.

Patrik Enander wrote (April 7, 2000):
Tonight I have done some comparative listening of Suzuki's [22] and Herreweghe’s [13] BWV 21. I have been on and off this list, and every time, I seem to be rambling on about the excellence of Herreweghe’s interpretation, so far the only one I've heard. But it has made a deep impression on me. Suzuki is excellent, as Piotr and Ryan have pointed out, no doubt about that! But it will no replace Herreweghe’s recording in my affection. Why?

[13] Herreweghe is crisper and lighter; the textures are more transparent. I suspect that the acoustics of recording venue is one major aspect. I'm not completely satisfied with Suzuki-series [20] [22]. I find that the acoustics smoothes things out, makes it a bit of a blur. I prefer Collegium Vocale, especially the altos, predominantly male with an excellent singer like Steve Dugardin. It adds an extra energy. Robin Blaze sings like he looks, a well brought up English schoolboy, he is good but not very exciting, whereas Geared Lesne, who looks like a rock-star (!), has a lot more vocal presence Marcel Ponseele, the oboist, is more expressive than Patrik Beaugirard, even if he is very good. Listen to the short solo in Was betrubst du dich... Suzuki doesn't succeed in building up the almost erotic atmosphere in the dialogue between Jesus and the soul; I think his continuo ruins it and Kooy is a bit heavy going. Peter Harvey’s baritone is lighter and more suitable. But?

On the other hand Nonoshita's warmer and darker soprano voice is more pleasant than Schlick’s (so this a CD for Don Satz!)´. I even can hear how she really works to sound as German as possible, which of course comes natural to Schlick. I said previously that I preferred Howard Crook. Now I'm not so sure any more. Türk is just as good.

Well, to sum up:
Suzuki is excellent but my favorite is still Herreweghe. It would be interesting to hear someone else's view on this. There must be someone else who has heard the Herreweghe. Perhaps our own Bach-scholar from Israel!

Ryan Michero wrote (April 7, 2000):
I'm glad you have done comparative listening, because I have too! Last night I listened closely to the Suzuki [22], and this morning I listened closely to the Herreweghe [13]. I'm preparing to write a full review of Suzuki's set this weekend (with comparisons). But in the meantime I'll reply directly to your message. I am quite prepared for it!

(Herreweghe VS Suzuki) Agreed, kind of. I think the choral sound on the Suzuki series could use a little more definition. However, I do think the BCJ choral sound accurately represents hearing a chorus in a live situation. And on the other hand, I think the BCJ orchestra is more well-defined than Herreweghe's group.

(Robin Blaze VS Gerard Lesne) I don't really agree. Not that I don't love Lesne, on the contrary. But I do think Blaze actually sings with more character and a more lovely tone than Lesne in Suzuki's recording of BWV 21. I'm liking Blaze's voice more and more these days, and I don't think he sounds too "proper" or anything.

(Marcel Ponseele VS Patrik Beaugirard) This is probably one of Ponseele's best performances, and he wins by a very small margin, I think. But who is this Beaugiraud? He's wonderful! Anyone who closely compares with Ponseele is someone to watch.

(Peter Kooy VS Peter Harvey) I do like Peter Harvey, but Kooy is wonderful too. And I have to disagree with you overall on this point--I think Suzuki's performance is much more successful than Herreweghe's. In fact, I was probably most moved listening to this movement on Suzuki's recording. The innocence of the dialogue, the push and pull of the words of the text are quite charming, and the two singers convey the emotions nicely. By the time Kooy sings "Ich liebe dich" I had tears in my eyes. Regarding a more erotic atmosphere in Herreweghe's version...well, I honestly couldn't concentrate on that with Barbara Schlick singing! (More on her below.) And about the continuo: I like a little harpsichord with my organ, thank you very much! I didn't think it was intrusive at all.

(Nonoshita VS Schlick) I FAR prefer Nonoshita's voice here. It is very elegant and warm, and, importantly when the soprano sings so much, it is always pleasant to hear and doesn't overpower the other soloists. When I listened to Herreweghe's version today I learned why people bash Barbara Schlick so much. I have enjoyed her singing in the past, but I have usually heard her confined to an aria or two with large spaces where she doesn't sing. Listening to Schlick in this cantata wore me out. I enjoyed her first aria. In her second aria, I began to get a little tired of her piercing, wobbly tone. Bach's soprano tessitura is so high in this cantata, and on the high notes she sounds loud but uncomfortable. In her "soli" sections with the other singers she completely dominates the ensemble, and I began to cringe when her voice came in. By the end of the work I was very sorry that Herreweghe had chosen Schlick for his otherwise fine reading of this cantata. I'm also sorry he chose a pseudo-Weimar version, with the soprano singing in EVERY aria. I'm dreading listening to Koopman's recording of BWV 21, which features Schlick in even worse voice. Ugh.

(Howard Crook VS Gerard Türk) I like them both too, although I'm glad Suzuki gives the tenor more to sing in his recording of the Leipzig version.

Something you didn't mention: I think Suzuki builds up dramatic tension across movements better than Herreweghe, expressing the transfiguration of sorrow and fear into great joy much more powerfully. Herreweghe is wonderful in the first half of the cantata, but I think he just has a problem expressing joy.

Also, I'm bothered that Herreweghe's recording is kind of a pseudo-Weimar version. Suzuki has done a great job delineating the alternate versions of BWV 21, and I'm a little upset that Herreweghe uses a hybridized version of the cantata. Herreweghe uses the Weimar versions of the arias, which are written for soprano, unfortunately sung by Schlick. He also doesn't use the Leipzig trombone parts that Koopman, Harnoncourt, and Suzuki all use in "Sei nun wieder zufrieden". (Concerto Palatino sounds magnificent in Suzuki's version, BTW.) However, Herreweghe's version is pitched at Kammerton and he uses the "soli/chorus" distinction--both characteristic of the Leipzig version. Suzuki is the first to really make these distinctions, giving us two different versions to compare (on Vol.6 & 12), with a handful of alternate movements to boot!

(Suzuki VS Herreweghe) And for me, Herreweghe is very good (save Schlick), but Suzuki overtakes him.

Aryeh Oron wrote (April 7, 2000):
(To Patrik Enander) BWV 21 was intended to be performed in the 3rd Sunday after Trinity. If I am not mistaken it is sometimes in late July. If this cantata is chosen by the group to be discussed at that time, it will be fine with me. But in the meantime I am preparing my comparison of the recordings of the charming early Wedding cantata BWV 196. Well, it is not so famous as BWV 21 is, but is has very special virtues and I have a personal story regarding this cantata, which I will send to the group at the beginning of next week. Regarding BWV 21, I do not have the new Suzuki recording (included in Vol. 12) [22] yet, but I do have his previous recording (included in Vol..6) [20]. I have also 6 other recordings of BWV 21 - Rilling, Harnoncourt, Richter, Koopman, Rotzsch, and Herreweghe. I have special affinity for the Rilling [10] and Koopman [18] recordings. Regarding a detailed comparison of those recordings, I do not have the time to do it now and we shall probably have to wait until July, unless I will find time to do it earlier. Sorry!

Patrik Enander wrote (April 7, 2000):
(To Aryeh Oron) Something I look forward to!

Aryeh Oron wrote (April 8, 2000) to Hänssler label:
[10] I have the Rilling recording of BWV 21 on Die Bach Kantate - Vol. 14 from Hänssler (CD-Nr. 98.865). The booklet inside does not include any information about the date and place of the recording. Will you be please so kind to send me the information.

Katharina Fritz from Hänssler label wrote (April 10, 2000):
[10] (To Aryeh Oron) Here the information to cantata BWV 21:

Recording location: Gedachtnis-Church Stuttgart, Germany
Date of recording: March/May 1976

Patrik Enander wrote (April 11, 2000):
[22] Before going to bed I thought I should finish with listening to a Bach cantata I just picked Vol.10 in Suzuki's series. I haven't listened that much to it. I listened to BWV 105 Herr, Gehe nicht in Gericht. I was bowled over and so inspired that I had to tell my Bach-loving friends all over the world. It is a lovely performance. The choir sings beautifully, the orchestra sounds light and transparent. Robin Blaze is superb in his small recitative, I came to regret the somewhat derogatory things I said about him when I compared BWV 21. The soprano Miah Persson, a fellow Swede!, sings beautifully, but the best part is Peter Kooy (I refuse to call him Kooij) in the bass recitative. It is delicate, low-keyed and so very beautiful. The only letdown is the cheerful tenor aria. I cannot say I enjoyed the melody that much, it is too jumpy in Suzuki's interpretation and Sakurada is not up to his usual high standards.

In this cantata Suzuki [22] is to be preferred to Herreweghe [13] with the exception of the tenor aria, on Herreweghe sung by Howard Crook. His singing is better and it is played somewhat slower and is much more expressive.

So listen and enjoy!

 

Suzuki - Vol. 12

Ryan Michero wrote (April 12, 2000):
[22] Hello again, list-mates! I'm checking in with my full review of Vo.12 (sorry I'm a bit late). Enjoy!

Volume 12--Cantatas from Leipzig, 1723/V
BWV 147 and BWV 21
Bach Collegium Japan, dir. Masaaki Suzuki
Yukari Nonoshita, Robin Blaze, Gerd Türk, Peter Kooy
With Concerto Palatino (BWV 21)
Recorded June 1999, Kobe, Japan
BIS CD-1031

Vol.12

This is something of a landmark volume in Suzuki's cantata series as it includes two established masterpieces of Bach's cantata output, BWV 147 and BWV 21. Both are long works, challenging the interpreter's ability to illuminate details while still retaining a sense of the emotional progression of the whole. Both contain some fiendishly difficult passages that can push even the seasoned performer's abilities to their limits. And as these cantatas are both frequently recorded favorites, Suzuki faces some stiff competition. I'm happy to report that, in the face of these challenges, Suzuki has again risen to the occasion, producing wonderful readings that do full justice to the works and, for me, eclipse all other available versions. I think this is an essential disc not only for the Bach cantata enthusiast but also for all Bach lovers and music fans in general.

BWV 21 "Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis"

Although BWV 147 is a fine work, BWV 21 is an absolute favorite of mine. The range of expression here is very wide, beginning with intense, sustained despair, progressing through uncertainty and consolation, and ending with a tremendous outburst of joy. Suzuki and the BCJ give a wonderful performance here that can stand among, even above, the best available. The orchestra of the BCJ grabs our attention from the beginning with a gorgeous performance of the opening Sinfonia (Mvt. 1). Patrick Beaugiraud, whom I have never encountered before, is the oboist here, and he is quite a find--very expressive, with a warm tone and a nicely flexible sense of rhythm. He compares well with Marcel Ponseele in Herreweghe's version, and that's saying something. Ryo Terakado on solo violin makes a great companion. Suzuki takes the Sinfonia (Mvt. 1) quite slowly, savoring the melodic interplay of the violin and oboe as well as the painful dissonances near the end of the movement. With the despairing mood set, the choir begins the second movement with three breathtaking chordal statements of the word "Ich"--the first somber, the second more forceful, the third quieter, sighing. Bach's stark textures in the first section of the chorus (Mvt. 2) sound wonderful as sung by the BCJ. But the real treat is in the second half of the chorus Mvt. 2), where the tempo picks up for the text "deine Trostungen erquicken meine Seele". Suzuki makes the most of the quickening rhythms, and other conductors' interpretations sound stodgy in comparison. The moving soprano aria "Seufzer, Tranen, Kummer, Not" (Mvt. 3) comes next, and it is beautifully sung by Nonoshita, here sounding appropriately bleak and austere. After a fine recitative, Gerd Türk sings "Bache von gesalznen Zahren", which expands on the somber mood of the cantata's first half. In Suzuki's version the phrasing and orchestral playing have a great, tragic sweep that I don't hear in any other version. Türk is lyrical and passionate throughout most of the aria yet virtuosic in the coloratura runs of the "storm" section. The chorus that ends the first part, an emotional turning point of the cantata, is given a wonderful performance. Bach specified that the first statement of the words "Was betrubst du dich, meine Seele" be sung by "soli" ensemble (one-voice-per-part, or OVPP), and the voices of the four soloists sound GORGEOUS together. The chorus also makes a strong impression in the following bars. With the magic words "Harre auf Gott" ("Put thy trust in God"), the mood switches from grim and uncertain to warm and hopeful, and the choir and orchestra simply glow, with Beaugiraud's oboe soaring into the heavens. The concluding fugal section is invigorating, and the first half ends on a spine-tingling major chord.

The second part of the cantata begins with a recitative and duetto that illustrate a dialogue between the soul (soprano) and Jesus (bass). Kooy is great as the voice of Jesus, with a great sense of authority as well as lyrical warmth, and Nonoshita sounds delectably innocent and vulnerable. I was quite moved by these dialogue numbers. In the passage where the soprano despairingly exclaims "Nein, du hassest mich!" ("No, you hate me!") and Jesus replies "Ja, ich liebe dich" ("Yes, I love you!"), Kooy's softening voice brought tears to my eyes. The "stile antico" chorus that follows, on the text "Sei nun wieder zufrieden", is simply ravishing. Suzuki's wonderful "soli" ensemble begins the movement, with the choral tenors singing the stanzas of the chorale. When the full chorus enters, the BCJ is joined by three trombones and a cornett, played by members of Concerto Palatino, doubling the vocal lines. The sound is magnificent, and the final bar reliably sends chills up my spine. Türk returns to give a bright account of the joyous aria with continuo, "Erfreue dich, Seele". The final chorus, "Das Lamm das erwurget ist", where Bach introduces three trumpets and timpani to the ensemble, is overwhelmingly powerful. The Handelian fugue that closes the work makes me want to get up and dance. Alleluia indeed!

Comparisons - Harnoncourt, Herreweghe, Koopman, Suzuki

[9] Harnoncourt's recording sounds just plain weird to me. It's strange--he whips up the tempo in slow, contemplative movements but slams on the brakes in the usually quick fugal sections. In spite of Equiluz's dramatic singing, "Bache von gesalznen Zahren" fails to makes its full impact because of Harnoncourt's choppy accents. Also, a woman soprano is really preferable to a boy in this cantata due to the mature emotions of the text and the erotic implications of the dialogue sections. However, I loved Jurg Schaeftlein's piquant oboe playing, and "Sei nun wieder zufrieden" sounds great.

[13] Herreweghe's version has been the leading HIP version of this cantata for years. Some will continue to cherish this one, but Suzuki's new recording overtakes it in my book. Herreweghe captures the tragic tone of the cantata's first section wonderfully, and Ponseele's playing of the oboe part is a bit more affecting than Beaugiraud's. Herreweghe's Collegium Vocale chorus is terrific, rich and amazingly clear. Barbara Schlick makes a strong impression in "Seufzer, Tranen", and her trembling voice is perfect for this aria. However, Schlick is not entirely comfortable with the high tessitura of the part, and her high notes sound strained. Howard Crook's singing of "Bache von gesalznen Zahren" is expressive, but the aria doesn't have the tragic sweep of Suzuki's. When the "soli" ensemble sings in the choral movements, Barbara Schlick's unique voice unfortunately sticks out like a sore thumb, overpowering the other singers and focusing the listener's attention on her strained high notes--ouch. The dialogue sections are nice, with Peter Harvey sounding great, but Schlick begins to annoy. "Sei nun wieder Zufrieden" sounds fine, but Herreweghe omits Bach's cornet and trombone parts, which is too bad! The joyous "Erfreue dich" doesn't sound joyous enough to me, but Herreweghe redeems himself with a great reading of the final chorus.

I have two other recordings of BWV 21, but they are earlier versions of the cantata--played in the key of d-minor instead of c-minor, without cornet and trombone parts, and with all tenor arias given to the soprano. There are extensive notes about the different versions of BWV 21 in Suzuki's Vol.12 and, especially, 6. The final Leipzig version is probably the more satisfying version, and the recordings of the earlier versions really shouldn't compete with the others. H, these deserve a mention here:

[18] Koopman (on his Vol.1) performs a version a bit different than Suzuki's, using the soprano arias and the higher key but observing the "soli"/"chorus" markings of the Leipzig version and providing versions of "Sei nun wieder Zufrieden" both with and without trombones. I'm not certain if Koopman will be providing us with a straight Leipzig-version recording. Koopman's interpretation is remarkably similar to Herreweghe's, with both even sharing the same soprano and oboe soloists! Koopman doesn't touch the heart quite as deeply as Herreweghe in the beginning, but the transition to joy is handled a little better. However, the same reservations about Barbara Schlick in Herreweghe's version apply here too, compounded by the facts that the earlier version is in a higher key and that the soprano has much more to sing! Thankfully, Koopman's recorded sound takes the edge off the voice, so Schlick doesn't sink the whole performance.

[20] Suzuki's Vol.6 follows the early, Cöthen version of the score to the letter. There are no trombones, and there is no soli/chorus distinction in the choruses. The interpretation is otherwise quite similar to the one in Vol.12. Marcel Ponseele plays the oboe part here, making this his third recording of the same cantata (too much of a good thing?). The extended, demanding soprano part is here sung by Monika Frimmer. Frimmer has a lovely, clear voice, and she sings with great feeling. However, she is strained by the high tessitura, and you can hear it. I marginally prefer her to Barbara Schlick, but neither is ideal. It's a good thing Suzuki took another shot at BWV 21, because his second recording has none of the drawbacks of the first. Suzuki sure is thorough--there are three alternate movements included with Volume 6 (3, "Seufzer, Tranen", and 7 and 8, the dialogue pieces) where the soprano part is sung by a tenor so that, with Vol.6 and Vol.12, the listener can reconstruct the second Weimar version that Bach adapted when a suitable soprano was not available! Türk sounds great in these movements, but it sure is strange to hear a tenor and a bass sing a love duet!

A side note about these two recordings of the early version of BWV 21: The lack of soli/chorus marks in this version mean different things to Koopman and Suzuki: Koopman assumes Bach would've performed it with the concertist/ripienist alternation anyway, and Suzuki just assigns all the music to full chorus. Did it cross their minds that this could mean the earlier version was sung OVPP? I would LOVE to hear the early version sung completely OVPP, but none of the major proponents of this method have tackled it. Why not? Junghänel, are you listening?

Matthew Westphal wrote (April 14, 2000):
Junghänel and Cantus Cölln will be doing BWV 21 at the Melbourne Festival this coming October. It's not yet clear if they will record it for Harmonia Mundi; Konrad Junghänel did tell me, however, that HM is very pleased with the success of their first Bach disc (they're calling it "Actus Triumphalis") and is interested in doing more.

Ryan Michero wrote (April 14, 2000):
(To Matthew Westphal) Great news! They seem like an obvious choice to record this cantata, or should I say that BWV 21 is an obvious choice for them to perform. Let's hope they do end up recording it.

I like the "Actus Triumphalis" thing. Early music record company humor...

Thanks for the news, Matthew (and for getting me interested in Junghänel's Bach in the first place--the Bach motets recording you recommended is my favorite now).

 

Suzuki's Bach Cantata Series, Vol. 12

Donald Satz wrote (April 24, 2000):
[22] Vol. 12 of Suzuki's latest recording on BIS 1031 consists of the Cantatas BWV 147 and BWV 21. Both are among Bach's more popular cantatas and have much highly inspired music. For comparison purposes, I'm using Koopman/Erato [18] for both works, Gardiner/Archiv and Rifkin/Decca for BWV 147, and Kuijken/Virgin [12] and Herreweghe/Harmonia Mundi [13] for BWV 21. [Snip]

BWV 21, 'Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis', is very different from its coupling. This is a highly dramatic and moving work which is seen from the eyes and heart of a "lost soul" who is in a state of total despair, who wants a connection to God but feels none. Eventually, when the soul has hit the lowest level, God has mercy. There are even a couple of conversations between the lost soul and Jesus. The theme of the repentant sinner being saved by God is one of the strongest tenets of the Christian faith. The text and the music are powerful, making this one of Bach's finest cantatas. For comparison, Rifkin and Gardiner are replaced by Herreweghe [13] and Sigiswald Kuijken [12]. I haven't listened to the Kuijken for a few years but remember it as being very effective.

BWV 21 begins with a Sinfonia (Mvt. 1) of slow pace which expresses both the seemingly interminable hold that sin and despair can have on the soul and hope of forgiveness through faith. At its most effective, a performance fully provides the despair through the thud of the bass line, while the violins and oboe are ever ready to lift us beyond all earthly concerns. The engineering is important in that the violins and oboe need to occupy their own distinct soundstages and provide a crisp and clear enticement. Suzuki [22] and Kuijken [12] do all of this superbly. In the Herreweghe [13] and Koopman [18] versions, the violins and oboe are too embedded with the other instruments; they do not represent a sharp break with the descent to utter despair.

The opening chorus Mvt. 2) begins with more trouble of the spirit in a moderately paced manner, which suddenly quickens and becomes upbeat. Kuijken's pacing is excellent and his small chorus outstanding. The other versions are good.

Next is a soprano aria (Mvt. 3) which is one of the saddest pieces of music I've ever heard; it really hits the deepest levels. Our lost soul is in major emotional crisis as she continues to moan her state. For best performance, the music needs a very sad oboe and pacing which reflects confusion. Also, the soprano must deliver a complete sense of sadness and despair. Barbara Schlick/Koopman and Greta de Reyghere/Kuijken get everything right. Not only does Schlick sound totally in despair, but her voice has fullness, which is rare for her. Schlick is also Herreweghe's soloist, but here she sounds a little "manic" which I didn't appreciate. Suzuki is not competitive at all. He and the oboe employ a "straight-ahead" approach, robbing the music of much of its emotion. Also, the soprano, Yukari Nonoshita, is not very expressive.

The lost soul continues the decline into the "abyss of hell" with a recitative and aria. The tenors do the honors excepting for Koopman who uses Barbara Schlick; this time Schlick has some high passages to negotiate, and she has much trouble. Of course, trouble is the theme of this segment, but Schlick's voice is too unpleasant at times. Gerd Türk for Suzuki is better, but Prégardien for Kuijken and Crook for Herreweghe possess the highly expressive and stunning voices required. Herreweghe also provides some outstanding violin work.

Part 1 of the cantata concludes with a chorus, which essentially offers an "olive branch" to the lost soul and is a sign of things to come. The choral forces need to possess a "bright" voice, which radiates hope. All versions are good, although Herreweghe's chorus is a little darker than the others are.

Part 2 opewith a recitative and an aria for soprano and bass. The soprano is the soul, and the bass is Jesus. They are having a dialogue in both pieces. In the recitative, the soul still feels lost, but Jesus assures her that the time is soon when her burdens will be lifted. In the aria, a beautiful piece of music, the soul is insistent that all is lost while Jesus continues to console her - he is very patient and she is very slow to get the big picture. Barbara Schlick is the soprano for Herreweghe and Koopman, and she's very good in both. Peter Kooy and Klaus Mertens are also very fine. Suzuki's soprano, Yukari Nonoshita, is low on emotion although her voice is more pure than Schlick's; the bass is a little too obvious and a bit of a "ham". Moving on the Kuijken, we find the best soprano, Greta de Reyghere, who has a lovely and vulnerable voice. Her partner, Peter Lika, isn't in Merten's class, but he suffices while Greta steals the show. Overall, Kuijken offers the best rendition, while Suzuki is hurt by his soloists.

In the following chorus, the lost soul is being urged to stop worrying and just trust in God - take him into your heart. The timings of the four versions are quite different. Kuijken takes almost 7 minutes, Koopman less than 6 minutes, and Herreweghe and Suzuki less than 5 minutes. I feel the piece needs some weight and expressiveness. Although Suzuki provides this at a fast pace, Herreweghe does not. His approach is much too light for the subject matter; we still have a soul that needs saving. Kuijken and Koopman are as effective as Suzuki is.

The last aria is for tenor, although Koopman again uses Barbara Schlick. We have reached the point where the lost soul is finally saved and is free of earthly misery. Schlick does much better when in a miserable state; rising to the top is not a strength of hers. Herreweghe's version, although Howard Crook is very good, lacks liveliness. Suzuki and Kuijken are lively, uplifting, and their tenors sound very good.

The cantata ends with a chorus expressing the joy and happiness of the intimate connection between the human soul and God. The music is rousing, exciting, and uplifiting in the hands of Suzuki and Kuijken. Suzuki has great pacing and forward momentum, which is achieved without a particularly fast speed. In the hands of Herreweghe and Koopman, the music can seem repetitive and uninvolving.

Suzuki [22] is fully competitive with Koopman [18] and Herreweghe [13] in BWV 21. But, just as his BWV 147 was well below Rifkin's level, the same applies when he's compared to Kuijken's [12] BWV 21. Kuijken has Greta de Reyghere and Christoph Prégardien who are much better than any of Suzuki's singers. Kuijken's version is simply outstanding.

In conclusion, Suzuki's Vol.12 is a worthy addition to his traversal of the Bach cantatas. But, the recording does not represent the best of Bach in this repertoire. For that, one must look to Rifkin and Kuijken [12]. The third artist I was most impressed with is Bogna Bartosz, the alto for Koopman's BWV 147; the voice is full-bodied but not heavy at all, and the emotional output is staggering and right on target.

 

The Magnificat BWV 243

Marie Jensen wrote (June 11, 2000):
[17] (In a discussion about the Magnificat BWV 243) Yes, the low price CD ARTS 47374-2 where Diego Fasolis conducts Coro della Radio Svizzera and ensemble Vanitas. Soloists: Balducci, Clausen, Lang, Bettini. It is great and you get a terrific BWV 21 too.

Jane Newble wrote (June 12, 2000):
[17] (Regarding the Magnificat) My two favorite recordings are, in order of preference: (Snip) Diego Fasolis on Arts 47374-2 - This also has BWV 21 and BWV 225. The singing on this CD is amazingly fast. (Snip)

Harry Steinman wrote (June 13, 2000):
[17] (Regarding the Magnificat) (Snip) The very best recording of the Magnificat I've ever heard is by Diego Fasolis with the Coro della Radio Svizzera and Ensemble Vanitas (Arts 47374-2). This wonderful recording also includes my favorite version of BWV 21 ("Ich hatte viel Bekummernis") and the Motet, BWV 225, "Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied".

I'm sorry, I can't tell you all the reasons why this is such a great recording, other than the fact that it just 'works' for me...and works VERY well. I'm not familiar with the singers (Antonella Balducci, S; Ulrike Clausen, A; Frieder Lang, T; and Fulvio Bettini, B) but they are terrific. Right this moment I'm listening to Balducc's "Et exultavit" and I hear her voice clearly and can hear the instrumentation clearly, too. Her voice is vibrato-free and is perfectly matched with the ensemble...and in the "Quia Respexit" she sings so tenderly, entwining with the oboe...until the chorus comes in, almost surprisingly, "Omnia generatines"

I remember another list member (Ehud Shiloni maybe?) raving about this CD and so I bought it...and it was definitely worth it. Ehud, if that was you, what was it in particular that you liked about the recording?

In any event, this is one of my favorite Bach vocal recordings. Fasolis' BWV 21 is head-and-shoulders above everybody else (including Herreweghe [13], and I'm usually very high on Phillip Herreweghe).

Pascal Bedaton wrote (June 13, 2000):
[17] (Regarding the Magnificat) I totally agree with Marie. The Fasolis recording of the Magnificat is my favorite recording nearly followed by Herreweghe but the Fasolis one includes also good recordings of the cantata BWV 21 and the Motet BWV 225 and is a low price CD. [Snip]

 

Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 21: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion

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Last update: ýOctober 1, 2011 ý21:50:33