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Cantata BWV 55
Ich armer Mensch, ich Sündenknecht
Discussions - Part 1

Discussions in the Week of October 27, 2002 (1st round)

Aryeh Oron wrote (October 27, 2002):
BWV 55 - Introduction

The subject of this week’s discussion (October 27, 2002), according to Thomas Shepherd’s suggested list, is the Solo Cantata BWV 55 ‘Ich armer Mensch, ich Sündenknecht’ (I, wretched man, I, slave of sin). This is Bach’s only cantata for tenor solo. It was composed for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity. The Gospel reading for the day is Matthew 18: 23-35 - the story of the unforgiving servant. The unknown librettist changes this Gospel account to the reverse: a guilty sinner seeking God’s pardon.


The details of the recordings of this cantata can be found at the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website: Cantata BWV 55 - Recordings

Looking at the impressive list of 13 or 14 complete recordings of this cantata, one can easily see that it is dominated by Peter Schreier, as much as Cantata BWV 56 is dominated by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Schreier recorded this cantata at least three times [5] [9] [11] (maybe four, I am not sure if the two recordings with Mauersberger [5] [5a] are not actually identical). Among the other tenors in the list you can find names like Ernst Haefliger [3], Raymund Gilvan [4], Helmut Krebs [2], Nicolai Gedda [6], Kurt Equiluz [7], Adalbert Kraus [8], and Ian Bostridge [15]. This is indeed a frightening group for every tenor, trying to perform this cantata.
You can listen to Equiluz’ recording (with Leonhardt’s [7]) through David Zale Website.

If anybody is aware of a recording of this cantata (either complete or individual movement from it) that I have missed, please inform me.

Additional Information

In the page of recordings mentioned above you can also find links to:
The original German text (at Walter F. Bischof Website); English translations by Francis Browne and Z. Philip Ambrose; Hebrew translation by anonymous translator (1966);
Score (Vocal & Piano version);
Commentary: in English by Simon Crouch (Listener’s Guide); in Spanish by Julio Sánchez Reyes.

The pessimistic mood makes this short cantata one of the most heart-rending and least attractive of Bach’s solo cantatas. The second aria ‘Erbarme dich’ (Mvt. 3) can be placed along the famous aria for alto from Matthäus-Passion (BWV 244)

I hope to see many of you participating in the discussion.

Philippe Bareille wrote (October 31, 2002):
This solo cantata is a a lament for one's sins, a cry for help. The sufferer is consumed with guilt and is begging for forgiveness "Erbarme dich!" (have mercy on me).

This work puts considerable demands on the singer, hence only the best tenors can pull it off. The first aria which requires clear high tessitura is almost operatic and is probably technically even more taxing that the second one.

I have listened to Ian Bostridge [15], Kurt Equiluz [7], Peter Schreier (1997 version) [11] and Ernst Haefliger [3].

[15] Ian Bostridge is emotionally committed and sings with great fervour. Yet he is not an idiomatic Bach singer (its is obviously easier if German is the tenor's mother tongue) and he is not devoid of a few mannerisms. He doesn't always penetrate the musical core of this music especially in comparison with the other 3 tenors on my list, maybe because of technical limitations. The CD is still worth acquiring for the excellent Europa Galante (the orchestra) and the other tenor arias that are certainly more convincing.

It is more difficult for me to mark apart the other 3 distinguished tenors. These three artists are deeply engaged with the text with a great sense of urgency. They bring drama, emotions and poignancy with genius and deep insight. Their Bach suffers as it ought to. They are idiomatic, very expressive, natural Bach tenors. They have no problems here with inhabiting Bach's world.

When I was much younger Haefliger [3] was my favourite Bach tenor. Now if I had to cavil at, I would say that he may be a shade too dramatic (operatic) in the second aria of this cantata. He is, however, the most accomplished tenor in the recitatives and his plangent tone is very touching. Schreier tempo is a bit fast in the opening aria and he emits a slightly nasal sound but again it is hair-splitting. He is most affecting in the second aria and his rendition of the final choral is outstanding (the best of the 4 versions here). I used to listen to the Mauersberger version [5] on LP which was one of the most satisfying account of this work according to my recollection. Schreier's voice [11] had probably more clarity. I intend to order the CD. Equiluz [7] is perhaps the one I would take away in the second aria. His expression here is almost unrivalled. The more you listen to Equiluz the more you realise how gratifying and full of deep intuition this tenor was. Leonhardt's instrumental support is first rate too (my favourite).

In summary Equiluz [7], Haefliger [3] and Schreier [11] interpretations of this superb cantata are worth having. The performance to take away is down to personal taste. Perhaps Schreier or Equiluz in the second aria and Haefliger in the recitatives?

Philippe Bareille wrote (October 31, 2002):
No sooner had I sent my email with my comments on the BWV 55 than a friend of mine came round with the Mauersberger version with Schreier [5] that was recorded in the 60's. I have to give you my immediate impressions. The young Peter Schreier is vocally far superior to the recording I have (it was what I suspected). In the 1997 recording the shine of his voice had certainly worn off compared with the earlier recording. That doesn't change my previous conclusions but the Schreier of the 60's is preferable, standing next to Equiluz [7] or Haefliger [3] slightly above the ageing Schreier [11]!

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 1, 2002):
Philippe Bareille perspicacious (too bad there isn't an equivalent word in English such as 'peraudicious'(?) that would refer to very discerning ears) insights into the various tenors' voices and interpretations of this cantata parallel quite closely my impressions as well. I normally would not respond at this point since I have not yet finished writing my report; however, I just received my copy of Bostridge's recording today and just finished listening to it a short while ago. Philippe confirmed my very first impression of this interpretation and literally took 'the words out of my mouth.' The comparison of the two Schreier interpretations [5] that he mentions is exactly what I perceived as well. More about that later.

My surprise discovery about this cantata is that it was not conceived musically as a whole. At first, although it begins with a tenor solo, Bach may have intended it as a 'normal' sacred cantata, but then left it unfinished for some time. He later took itup again to complete the 2nd aria, recitative(s) and chorale, but these later items were copied from a different source and were not composed to fit directly the place where Bach had left off (these sections were probably taken over as is from an earlier Weimar passion - in essence, Bach did not compose anything new here, but simply went back to older sources and copied them directly.) There is no printing of the entire text nor do we know the librettist. For all we know Bach may have pasted the later sections (even the chorale was copied from somewhere else and not composed directly for this cantata) including the text and simply added it to a cantata that he had left unfinished. Only then did it become a tenor solo cantata as an afterthought (but with a 4-pt chorale which is not usually done for solo cantatas - the solo voice usually finishes a solo cantata alone.) Most commentators focus their attention on the 2nd aria, but I personally think the opening mvt. is of a higher quality musically, probably because it was composed closer to the time of the 1st performance.

About the recordings: I was amazed to find so many excellent renditions early on, but then as time progressed to the present, there was a noticeable falling off with the tenors indulging in manneristic approaches or taking a back seat to radical HIP interpretations offered by the instrumental groups that provide the accompaniment. What has happened to our present-day tenors who are unable to approach the excellence encountered in the early recordings?

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 2, 2002):
BWV 55 - Provenance:

See: Cantata BWV 55 - Provenance

Commentaries: [Rifkin/Parrott, Alfred Dürr, David Schulenberg (Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach – Boyd)]

See: Cantata BWV 55 - Commentary

Aryeh Oron wrote (November 2, 2002):
BWV 55 - Background

The background below is taken from Alec Robertson’s book: ‘The Church Cantatas of J.S. Bach’ (1972).

See: Cantata BWV 55 - Commentary

The Recordings

Last week I have been listening to the following recordings of Cantata BWV 55:

[3] Ernst Haefliger with Karl Richter (1959)

Peter Schreier with Erhard Mauersberger (1968)
[7] Kurt Equiluz with Gustave Leonhardt (1976)
[8] Adalbert Kraus with Helmuth Rilling (1982)
[9] Peter Schreier with Max Pommer (1987)
[10] Jeffrey Thomas with Jeffrey Thomas & ABS (1990)
[11] Peter Schreier with Peter Schreier (1994)
[13] Christoph Genz with Ludwig Güttler (1999)
[14] Knut Schoch with Pieter Jan Leusink (1999)
[15] Ian Bostridge with Fabio Biondi (2000)

Review of the Recordings

The recordings of this cantata can be roughly divided, according to the characteristics of the tenor singers, into three groups.

In the first group, ‘The old School’, we can find Haefliger, Equiluz, and Adalbert Kraus. This group also includes Raimund Gilvan, Helmut Krebs, and Nicolai Gedda. However, I do not have their recordings at my disposal.

In the second group, ‘The modern School’, we have Jeffrey Thomas, Genz, Schoch and Bostridge.

Peter Schreier, with his three recordings, has the whole third group to himself.

The Old School

[3] Ernst Haefliger (with Richter) brings all the experience he has acquired as an Evangelist into this cantata. The recitatives certainly gain from his approach, because through his interpretation they become as important as the arias. With his piercing voice he penetrates into the heart of the cantata. The sweetness of Aurèle Nicolet’s flute intensifies the tragic atmosphere of the second aria. Although this rendition is not free of imperfections (too slow pace, over-expressiveness), I found myself deeply touched by it.

[7] Few can rival Equiluz (with Leonhardt) in the tasteful way in which he utters every phrase of both the recitatives and the arias of this cantata. Take for example the phrase ‘Wohin? soll ich der Morgenröte Flügel / Zu meiner Flucht erkiesen, / Die mich zum letzten Meere wiesen’ (Where should I go? If I choose the wings of dawn / for my flight / to take me to the most distant sea) from the first recitative (Mvt. 2). Equiluz seems to take wings himself, always supple and eloquent in his phrasing. In the second aria (Mvt. 3) Frans Brüggen is spinning a marvelous tracery around him.

[8] Adalbert Kraus (with Rilling) has an adorable technique, which allows him to cope splendidly with this vocally taxing cantata, especially the opening aria. He has a rich vocabulary of means and he uses them wisely. Nevertheless, I got the impression that he has not really capture the essence of this cantata, as both Haefliger and Equiluz do. This is revealed clearly in the recitatives, where he has difficulties in making them as meaningful as they sound in the two previous recordings.

The New School

None of the singers in this group has left everlasting impression on me. I prefer Jeffrey Thomas [10] more as a conductor than as a singer. The sharp, poignant and sensitive accompaniment he supplies as a conductor is among the best of the modern recordings of this cantata. As a tenor, although competent, he does not have any special thing to offer. Christoph Genz [13] has a beautiful voice with lot of potential, but he has yet a way to develop as an interpreter. He also suffers from the heavy-handed conducting of Ludwig Güttler, who does not show any sensitivity, either to his singer or to the message of the cantata. Schoch [14] has never been one of my favourite contemporary tenors. But in Leusink’s cantata cycle he has some moments, where he is acceptable, if not more than that. But this cantata is high and above his shoulders, both technically and expressively. Ian Bostridge [15] has a pleasant and rich voice, but I have the impression that he is more confined to hearing himself singing than to digging into the cantata and conveying its message. He is also busy with showing off that he has mastered the German diction, but next to ‘real’ German singers, it sounds artificial. As Genz, he still has to develop, but some modesty will also help him to become a more convincing interpreter.

The Schreier’s Recordings

In all his three recordings of this cantata Peter Schreier gives the impression that things come easily to him. He always sounds effortless; no technical difficulties can be heard, even in the demanding opening aria. Looking at the playing time, one cannot overlook the fact that his recordings if the cantata have become shorter and shorter along the years: from 15:41 with Mauersberger (1968) [5], through 12:19 with Pommer (1987) [9], up to only 11:04 under his own conducting (1994) [11]. What is most amazing is that despite the differences in the approach of the different conductors and the tempi, Schreier’s own interpretation has not changed much along the 26 years spanning from his first recording to his third. The last one sounds as an acceleration of the first. More strain is put on the voice in the third recording, and it can be heard. Regarding the approaches of the conductors, Mauersberger reminds very much Richter, with his seriousness. Pommer is the most accomplished regarding the orchestral playing and clarity. Schreier as a conductor is the least interesting of the three, focusing on the dance-like qualities of the opening aria, making it sounds lightweight in with his other two recordings as a singer.

Comparing him with the singers from the ‘Old School’, my conclusion is that in his first two recordings Schreier is almost on the same par with Haefliger and Equiluz. Do his interpretations miss anything? I am not sure, assuming that my conclusion is only a matter of personal taste. The third recording is inferior to the previous two, regarding the approach of the conductor and the voice of the singer (which are actually the same persona). Although Schreier has retained most of the qualities, his voice is surely not what it used to be, regarding beauty of tone and technical dexterity.


A recording to take away: Haefliger/Richter [3] and Equiluz/Leonhardt [7].

As always, I would like to hear other opinions, regarding the above mentioned performances, or other recordings.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 3, 2002):
BWV 55 - The Recordings:

This week I listened to the following:

Richter (1959) [3]; Mauersberger (1970) [5]; Leonhardt (1976) [7]; Rilling (1982) [8]; Pommer (1987) [9]; Güttler (1999) [13]; Leusink (1999) [14]; Biondi (2000) [15]

Mvt. 1 Tenor Aria

Timings from slow to fast: Genz [13] 7:39; Schreier/Mauersberger [5] 7:02; Haefliger [3] 6:13; Equiluz [7] 5:23; Schoch [14] 5:11; Kraus [8] 5:06; Schreier/Pommer [9] 4:46; Bostridge [15] 4:28

Here we have a gamut spanning almost 3 minutes between the slowest and the fastest versions!

[3] Richter/Haefliger:
What a pleasure to hear a full voice with such expressive powers! There are subtle nuances in his phrasings and dynamics. There is clarity and strength in his low range. He attacks the high notes with great care. All the while the listener can feel that he really believes what he is singing.

[5] Mauersberger/Schreier:
This version is much slower than Richter’s, but Schreier’s intensity carries this movement forward relentlessly with great emotional power. The voice quality may be very different from Haefliger’s, but this interpretation can be considered comparable to Haefliger’s.

[7] Leonhardt/Equiluz:
This version, almost two minutes faster than the slowest version, begins to take on a dance-like quality which is promoted by the special accents and short phrasings. If it were not for Equiluz’ intense singing, the meaning of the text would be completely distorted. To construe this cantata mvt. as a dance is to miss the mark completely! As it is, there is a discrepancy between the type of HIP playing engaged in here and Equiluz’ excellent singing that expresses a very genuine feeling of anguish. In certain passages, the voice sounds somewhat rushed. The flute playing here is of such high quality that I would think that Brüggen would have to be playing here. Why he did not play the 2nd aria (or if he really did – why did he sound much less professional there) is a mystery for me.

[8] Rilling/Kraus:
The interpretation of this music by Kraus seems overdone. Perhaps he is trying too hard or this music simply does not suit his voice very well. My impression is that he is pushing against the capabilities of his voice. Certain vocal sounds are truly unpleasant. On the positive side, this, at least, is a full voice, the type of voice that seems to be lacking in some of the more modern cantata series. I could, however, easily imagine Christoph Prégardien easily surpassing Kraus’ performance, if Koopman [17] would allow him to take a reasonable tempo (not too fast.)

[9] Pommer/Schreier:
At two minutes and 15 seconds faster than his 1st version with Mauersberger, Schreier has little opportunity to develop the type of excellent interpretation he originally had. Pommer’s misch-masch of HIP and non-HIP techniques with all the worst exaggerations and mannerisms that you can imagine (late romantic traditions coupled with austere Harnoncourt-like phrasings and accents) gives evidence of Bach cantata interpretations that have gone awry. Even an excellent and experienced interpreter such as Schreier is unable to save this performance from slipping down a few notches.

[13] Güttler/Genz:
At this extremely slow tempo, the accompaniment sounds heavy and belabored. There are overly strong accents and exaggerated phrasings. This means that the solo voice is given the formidable task of sustaining the intensity of expression from one phrase to another. In this Genz is not able to succeed. Genz gives the impression that he might have a full voice, but the volume of his voice falls off noticeably in the lower range. In the high range it sometimes sounds thin and strained. As a result he holds back from applying his full voice. Only occasionally for emphasis does he really sing out properly. Sometimes a much slower version of an aria allows the listener to discover new things and gain additional insights into the music. This does not happen here and the result is simply a feeling of never-ending, ponderous plodding toward a conclusion that takes a long time in coming.

[14] Leusink/Schoch:
It becomes difficult to listen to Schoch’s howling on some of the high notes which have a ‘dead’ quality in that they lack expressivity. Long phrases begin to sound completely the same without a hint of understanding the text that is being sung. The double-bass ‘digging away’ at the low notes sounding an octave lower than those written in the score adds a humorous distraction that serves to lead the listener’s thoughts away from Bach’s musical intentions as expressed in the text.

[15] Biondi/Bostridge:
We’re off to the races! Take a Baroque ensemble with a leader who thinks he understands how Bach’s cantatas should be performed and couple that with a singer with an ingenuous, affected delivery and the result will be an unsatisfactory performance except for those who have not had much exposure to good performances of Bach’s cantatas. This is not an amateur performance or one that nearly approaches the amateur level as in the Leusink series. This is why it is all the more painful to see technique and artistry so easily misdirected as it is here. Perhaps this is more a question of hubris because none of the musicians in this group is willing to admit that just playing this music in a style that they have applied elsewhere does not do justice to this music. This is not just another Vivaldi concerto!

Mvt. 2 & Mvt. 4 Tenor Recitatives

[3] Richter/Haefliger:
Haefliger is a true master of the recitative. For those listeners who think that recitatives are mostly boring, Haefliger’s delivery of the text will be a true revelation and will lead to new insights. You may even find yourself wanting to listen to the same recitative again. How often does that happen in your Bach listening experience? There is unbelievable clarity and sensitivity to the meaning of each word. He has a vast range of expression which he applies judiciously and very effectively. There are many special moments because he has such a great variety of inflections. He does not sing sotto voce as if whispering into a microphone (a characteristic all too common among present-day Bach singers), but rather treats these recitatives as if he were projecting them to a church audience.

[5] Mauersberger/Schreier:
Scheier, although possessing very different voice characteristics than Haefliger, also gives a powerful interpretation of the texts. There are wonderful lyrical passages as in the 2nd recitative. These can easily move the listener because they are treated with such great care. Like Haefliger, Schreier highlights with special vocal effects certain key words. As a result, the listener is more apt to remember these words. This is certainly what Bach had in mind when he composed these recitatives.

[7] Leonhardt/Equiluz:
In the secco recitative, Leonhardt uses the shortened bc accompaniment. This has the effect of making the singer, in this Equiluz, work harder to put the words across. Compared to the earlier two singers above, Equiluz sounds just a bit angry and more desperate. This makes this rendition sound more operatic, more like the prattle that one would hear in a Mozart opera, where a listener expects this type of recitative to move along quickly so that the next aria can be sung. The shortened accompaniment in a Mozart recitative is exactly the type of playing that was anachronistically projected back upon Bach’s sacred cantatas. There is no clear evidence that this type of accompaniment was used by Bach. How much better is the sound of the 2nd recitative with its sustained chords in the strings! Here Equiluz is truly excellent.

[8] Rilling/Kraus:
Kraus tries for all kinds of variations in voice, but when he reaches for high notes, the result usually sounds forced or he uses too much vibrato. Actually, compared to most other recitative performances by Kraus in the Rilling series, these two renditions are above average, since his recitatives are usually quite difficult to listen to.

[9] Pommer/Schreier:
Pommer ‘tries to be HIP’ with a shortened accompaniment in the secco recitative. Schreier’s performance is not as suave as in his earlier version with Mauersberger. Perhaps the voice is no longer as supple as it once was. In any case, this version, although definitely better than some of the more recent tenors to follow, leaves the impression that Schreier had to work harder to produce this recording.

[13] Güttler/Genz:
In the secco recitative, the shortened accompaniment is used. There is not much expression in Genz’ voice. He is simply reading the text and trying to sing it. The 2nd lyrical recitative also lacks much in the way of any special interest.

[14] Leusink/Schoch:
Again, a shortened accompaniment is used in the secco recitative. There is not much in the way of expression to be perceived here. The howling on the high notes in the lyrical recitative is quite distracting. This is otherwise a rather pedestrian reading of the notes.

[15] Biondi/Bostridge:
This also sounds too much like an interlude between the arias of a Mozart opera. Bostridge is ‘hamming up’ the text. It is all an act, an attempt to overdo the expression of the text that everyone is expecting to hear. This ‘play acting’ with a serious text destroys the true significance of the text. Occasionally I think that Bostridge really does not understand what he is singing and that the pretense at affections is all that he is interested in.

Mvt. 3 Tenor Aria

Timings from slow to fast: Genz [13] 4:43; Schoch [14] 4:13; Bostridge [15] 4:02; Haefliger [3] 4:02; Equiluz [7] 3:47; Kraus [8]3:44; Schreier/Mauersberger [5] 3:42; Schreier/Pommer [9] 3:37

[3] Richter/Haefliger:
Immediately it becomes apparent that Haefliger has difficulty hearing the correct pitch here. He sings rather consistently flat. I have heard this sort of thing also happen when Haefliger sings slow moving arias in the passions and cantatas. Perhaps it is also connected with the fact that this aria moves forward very slowly. This aria is the low point in his rendition of this cantata.

[5] Mauersberger/Schreier:
The bc is rather heavy and loud, but Schreier gives this aria a performance that sets it above almost all of the others. He has just the right amount of emotional inflection combined with a wonderful control of a full voice that makes this a truly memorable performance of this aria.

[7] Leonhardt/Equiluz:
I doubt very much that Frans Brüggen is playing the wooden transverse flute here. This is either Carla Mahler playing or Brüggen is having an uncharacteristic ‘bad day’ trying to play the notes in tune. There is too much amateurish ‘overblowing’ of certain notes that immediately raises the pitch above what it should be. Some notes in the low register are soft and ‘dead’ or lifeless. All the while Equiluz is giving a superior performance as he puts his heart and soul into this music without allowing the strong emotions to sound ‘overdone.’ Too bad that the flute playing could not match Equiluz’ efforts!

[8] Rilling/Kraus:
The modern flute playing here is very clear and could provide the appropriate accompaniment for a great vocal performance, but Kraus uses too much vibrato. Supposedly he does this because he thinks it shows greater emotion. Such a rendition can quickly ‘turn off’ a listener. It makes me uncomfortable simply to listen to his voice in this mode.

[9] Pommer/Schreier:
Pommer overdoes the strong accents in the bc which is also too loud at times. Schreier’s performance also tends toward exaggerations and extremes which were not apparent in his 1st version. This is a hodge-podge of HIP and non-HIP (the pitch is standard, the flute is metal, but the phrasing and accents are typical of the Harnoncourt tradition.) The organ accompaniment (bc realization) is much too loud and distracting. This is also the fastest version of all those that I listened to. In this case, fast does little to enhance this interpretation.

[13] Güttler/Genz:
Heavy accents in the bc doom this version from the outset. This is absolutely the slowest version of this aria. The plodding bc with the understated modern flute and Genz’ thin voice with an interpretation that sounds the same throughout make this unusual combination of elements lead directly to a very boring presentation of this music.

[14] Leusink/Schoch:
Aside from the Leonhardt recording, this is the only other recording to use a wooden transverse flute. If anything could possibly save this mvt. from becoming too boring due to Schoch’s uninteresting style of singing, it should be the obligato flute. Unfortunately, the flute playing is also very dull and adds very little of interest to this mvt.

[15] Biondi/Bostridge:
Leave it to Biondi to come up with a new twist to this aria. He dispenses with Bach’s indication that the obligato part is to be played by a transverse flute. Biondi thinks of himself as a good violin player, so why not? He plays the part in his inimitable style, a style which I personally find over-embellished and extremely manneristic. Perhaps Biondi’s performance is an attempt to show-off his solo, Baroque-violin technique. At least it is a diversion from Bostridge’s failed attempt at singing this Bach cantata.

Mvt. 5 Final 4-pt. Chorale

[3] Richter:
The usual large choir appears in this recording. There are some intonation problems, particularly when singing softly. Richter engages in a tremendous crescendo at the beginning of the Abgesang (the final B section of the Barform) but then concludes with the same he used at the beginning (in the Stollen.) In the last line, instead of singing “bei mir” Richter uses “in mir.”

[5] Mauersberger:
This version with the Thomaner Chor is much better than Richter’s overly expressive attempt at this chorale. The cantus firmus is clear and Mauersberger maintains a steady, consistent dynamic level. Richter’s wavering intonation problems are corrected here with a choir using only male singers. He also has the choir sing “in mir” in place of “bei mir” which is in the original score.

[7] Leonhardt:
This very fast version of the chorale with special accents here and there (a HIP version a semitone lower than the preceding two) is also sung only by male singers. Although the cantus firmus is also as clear as the boy sopranos of the Thomaner Chor, the altos here leave a lot to be desired as they wobble about insecurely at times almost inaudible with the passing notes that they should be singing. Once again, “in mir” instead of “bei mir” is sung.

[8] Rilling:
Once again back to the higher pitch, Rilling’s choir gives this chorale his usual clear presentation, if you discount the soprano’s wobbly treatment of the cantus firmus which is anything but truly firm. The other voices are balanced with all of the parts clearly audible. Once again “in mir” rather than “bei mir” is sung.

[9] Pommer:
Slightly faster than the preceding non-HIP versions, the soprano is clearer than Rilling’s even though female voices are used here. There are a few sloppy attacks, but the balance is generally good. Another case of “in mir” in place of “bei mir” occurs here.

[13] Güttler:
This is a very clean and respectable version of this chorale, perhaps one of the best, if not the best, renditions that I have heard. Why at this late date the choir still sings “in mir” instead of “bei mir” is difficult for me to understand. It seems that no one ever checks the NBA on matters such as this.

[14] Leusink:
This has all the typical failings that I have pointed out previously. I certainly would not expect Leusink to check on “bei mir.” He has the choir sing this the same way as all the other versions.

[15] Biondi:
Here is a departure according to the Rifkin/Parrott theory that only solo voices would sing the final chorale in a solo cantata. This OVPP version features an excellent combination of voices with the exception of Bostridge’s. He is unable to control his vibrato. There are special accents that do not belong here. Did Biondi bother to check the NBA about “bei mir”? No! So much for authenticity of Baroque violinists who conduct Bach cantatas!


Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 55: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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