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Pieter Jan Leusink & Holland Boys Choir & Netherlands Bach Collegium
Bach Edition Vol. 8 & 9 - Cantatas Vol. 3 & 4


Bach Edition Vol. 8 - Cantatas Vol. 3


CD-1 [60:23]: Cantatas BWV 172 [18:13], BWV 182 [27:28], BWV 90 [12:35]
CD-2 [65:39]: Cantatas BWV 106 [21:29], BWV 199 [24:28], BWV 161 [19:35]
CD-3 [60:40]: Cantatas BWV 99 [17:13], BWV 35 [27:13], BWV 17 [16:]
CD-4 [56:58]: Cantatas BWV 123 [21:48], BWV 87 [20:11], BWV 173 [14:49]
CD-5 [48:02]: Cantatas BWV 117 [19:43], BWV 153 [14:10], BWV 168 [13:55]

Pieter Jan Leusink

Holland Boys Choir / Netherlands Bach Collegium

Sopranos: Ruth Holton, Marjon Strijk; Alto: Sytse Buwalda; Tenors: Nico van der Meel, Knut Schoch; Bass: Bas Ramselaar

Brilliant Classics 99367

Oct-Nov 1999

5-CD / TT: 291:42

Recorded at St. Nicolaschurch, Elburg, Holland.
See: Bach Edition Vols. 8 & 9 - Cantatas Vols. 3 & 4 - conducted by Pieter Jan Leusink
Buy this album at:
5-CD: | | | |


Bach Edition Vol. 9 - Cantatas Vol. 4


CD-1 [52:01]: Cantatas BWV 130 [16:28], BWV 138 [18:05], BWV 81 [17:21]
CD-2 [53:34]: Cantatas BWV 149 [18:50], BWV 69 [11:03], BWV 169 [23:31]
CD-3 [58:38]: Cantatas BWV 45 [18:19], BWV 150 [15:32], BWV 122 [14:39]
CD-4 [54:00]: Cantatas BWV 116 [15:52], BWV 13 [23:46], BWV 144 [15:11]
CD-5 [58:04]: Cantatas BWV 102 [23:02], BWV 7 [23:20], BWV 196 [11:55]

Pieter Jan Leusink

Holland Boys Choir / Netherlands Bach Collegium

Sopranos: Ruth Holton, Marjon Strijk; Alto: Sytse Buwalda; Tenors: Nico van der Meel, Knut Schoch; Bass: Bas Ramselaar

Brilliant Classics 99368

Oct-Nov 1999

5-CD / TT: 276:16

Recorded at St. Nicolaschurch, Elburg, Holland.
See: Bach Edition Vols. 8 & 9 - Cantatas Vols. 3 & 4 - conducted by Pieter Jan Leusink
Buy this album at:
5-CD: | | | | |

Kruidvat Volume 8 & 9 (cantatas III & IV)

Frank Wakelkamp
wrote (January 25, 2000):
Today I bought the first set of these. I am very happy with the 2nd CD of box III: Actus Tragicus (BWV 106)... Some other time more about these CD's. >I have been to the Kruidvat store here and found no new CD's. Strange…

Eltjo Meijer wrote (January 26, 2000):
Neither did I, Monday late afternoon. I bought the Brahms and Schumann Requiems but when I inquired about the next Bach box no one could even tell when the next one was expected to be in the shops.

Eltjo Meijer wrote (January 31, 2000):
Any expert opinions yet on the latest 2 Kruidvat boxes with cantatas?

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 1, 2000):
I am still waiting for my copy of Kruidvat Bach Edition Vol.8+9, which I hope to get next week. The 2 previous Boxes of Cantatas (Vol.4+5) were quite satisfying with their freshness.

If you are fond of Bach Cantatas, I suggest to you to sign to the Bach Cantatas Mailing List. If you want to do it you have to enter the following site:
And follow the instructions. They are very simple.

Johan van Veen wrote (February 1, 2000):
I bought both sets (Cantatas, vols. III and IV) last Thursday. I haven't had the opportunity yet to listen to all of them carefully. I have played them all just to see whether they were technically alright. As we know by now, you have to listen from a technical point of view, since too many Kruidvat CD's have technical failures. Fortunately I haven't heard any irregularities. Earlier today I have listened more extensively to two of the cantatas from vol. III, BWV 106 and BWV 199. This CD (the second of the set) has been sensitively programmed, since both these cantatas and the third (BWV 161) have in common that they are all early works (between 1705 and 1715). They also have in common a somewhat somber mood: BWV 106 and BWV 161 about death and BWV 199 about sin and repentance. They all end - as is usual with Bach's cantatas - on a positive note. The two first cantatas on this disc represent perhaps the best and the worst performances of this edition so far.

The Actus Tragicus (BWV 106) is a very early work, composed for a funeral. It is very likely that it was intended to be performed by one singer per part. The structure of the work, an unbroken sequence of short sections, as well as the instrumental scoring - two recorders, two violas da gamba and Basso Continuo - certainly support that view. This is the way it is performed here. The soprano here is a young Dutch singer, Marjon Strijk. The four singers (also Sytse Buwalda, Knut Schoch and Bas Ramselaar) blend very well and therefore the tutti are really good. The solo contributions of alto, tenor and bass are mixed: Buwalda is as good as ever, Ramselaar sings the aria 'Bestelle dein Haus' quite beautifully, with a very natural articulation. Knut Schoch isn't bad, but should learn something about declamation of the text; he also lacks some subtlety. The contribution of the soprano is too short to assess her qualities, but she certainly feels more at home with the text than Ruth Holton. She has a boyish sounding voice, which I like, but could add some color to her singing. I am certainly curious to hear further contributions from her. The last section - Glorie, Lob, Ehr und Herrlichkeit - is a little too slow, and the strong rhythm is a little underplayed. As a result it doesn't sound as joyous as it should.

BWV 199, Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut, is a solo cantata for soprano, oboe, strings and Basso Continuo. It is a very contrasting cantata which goes from an aria (preceded by a recitative) full of grief, to a joyous gigue on the words 'Wie freudig ist mein Herz'. This performance is certainly one of the worst in this series. Ruth Holton doesn't know what to do with the text. In the first recitative all words which ask for special treatment (because they are crucial for what the cantata is all about), are not taken any notice of, like 'Sunden', 'Ungeheuer', 'Pein', 'Hollenhenker', 'Lasternacht', 'Schmerz' etc. The whole performance - by singer and orchestra - misses the tension that this recitative distinguishes. The first aria is too fast; therefore the sighing motifs in the oboe part don't come across strongly enough. The second aria is too slow. It is, as one commentator writes, an aria with broad Handelian gestures. You won't hear that here. The poignant contrast between the A and B section has almost disappeared. A faster tempo in the A section could have made that contrast much stronger. The last aria is the best, although with a livelier articulation it could have been a lot more joyous. There are the usual problems with pronunciation. Ruth Holton sings 'Seufzer' as 'seuf-ser' in stead of 'seuf-tser'. She does it several times - was everybody else asleep? There are also some errors in the text as sung compared with the text printed in the booklet. The first recitative says: 'Mein ausgedorrtes Herz will ferner mehr kein Trost befeuchten' - no comfort can moisten my dried out heart anymore. Ruth Holton sings: 'befruchten' (fertilize). What sense does that make? It is fair to say that Ruth Holtois the main liability in this series. Couldn't she be replaced by someone else? More later (but not as long as this time).

Darryl Clemmons wrote (February 1, 2000):

(BWV 106) I don't agree that it is very likely that it was intended to be performed by one singer per part. The surviving manuscript is not an autograph or even a performing copy. Given the lack of surviving performance source material I don't think it is correct to make such an assumption. I will agree a choice to perform this work with one singer per part is a valid realization. However, I also think using a chorus of 16 to 20 is also valid.

James Coder (Mincklerstraat) wrote (February 5, 2000):

I'm in general happy with them, too; the Actus Tragicus (BWV 106) isn't as good as the Ricercar performance (this rises to better expressive heights, but such can barely be expected from a group that has to record the things at break-neck speed); and even though Ruth Holton is not such a strong voice, I appreciated her "Meine herze schwimmt im blut;" I know this with the Teldec version with Barbara Bonney, which is so expressive it was nice to hear a more "decent," less virtuosic version, and Ms. Holton does admirably enough, refreshing to hear a good, standard version that doesn't aspire to being to extraordinary.

Michel Couzijn wrote (February 5, 2000):

I think a "decent" performance means realizing what is in the score. And that is a lot more than Ruth Holton c.s. are delivering. A lot more"... So which parts of the score does Ruth Holton c.s. leave out?

Johan van Veen wrote (February 5, 2000):

Earlier in this thread I have written what I thought about the recording of BWV 199. But in the message you are replying to, I replied to a message by "Mincklerstraat" (whoever that may be) who said that Ruth Holton gives a "decent" performance. By explicitly comparing her with Barbara Bonney (on Teldec), who - according to the poster - is very expressive he admits that Ruth Holton is far less expressive. I was only asking why a not-so-expressive performance is "decent". I always thought that "expression" is one of the main hallmarks of a good performance. That doesn't mean that there is only one possible interpretation. There is a lot of freedom for different interpretations, but reducing expression to an absolute minimum isn't one of them.

Olivier Raap wrote:

I always read your articles with the greatest interest. However, sometimes I am quite surprised about your opinions. Let's discuss some of them.

"Most of today's singers seem not to know how to sing a recitative properly." Well.... I think they do. It seems that you just don't like this progress.

"I don't doubt the qualities of Leusink's orchestra and singers." Did you change opinion since listening volume 1 & 2 of the cantatas?

"And too extreme? Almost impossible. The baroque is a period of extremes - extreme contrasts between slow and fast movements, between loud and soft, between good and bad notes etc., (....)" Off course, contrasts are ok, but extreme contrasts? I suppose the baroque is a period of civilization and not a period of caricatures. According to my opinion some "over-expressive" performances tend to be caricatures, and Mr. Harnoncourt (who has undoubtedly won his spurs pioneering the HIP) sometimes created them. All new tendencies tend to be contra-movements of the old. The CMW recordings were a fine example of that. Nowadays the current opinions are much more moderate, and so is the interpretation of Mr. Leusink c.s. Anyway, enjoy the discs.

James Coder (Mincklerstraat) wrote (February 7, 2000):

Thanks for your response; I (Mincklerstraat, "whoever that may be") haven't been on the net for a few days and thus haven't seen your response until now (on Meine herze schwimmt, Bonney). By "decent" I don't really mean "good," in the sense of uniting all possible virtues of performance, but like "degelijk," maybe with a tiny touch of "braaf," making for a more bread-and-butter performance that you might want to listen to a few times a week; then you have more "expressive," "intense" performances (say, like the live performances of Beethoven by the Alban Berg quartet, or the Bonney performance) which are so intense, you love hearing them, but you save them for special occasions, you put them on only now and then. I find some pieces of music, regardless of the performance, also a bit like this; the Schubert string quintet (not the Forrel) is like this, while the Archduke trio of Beethoven is more an every-dayer.

Sybrand Bakker wrote (February 7, 2000):

I have a feeling both Johan and myself have followed Kurt Equiluz for years. You may or may not like his voice, in terms of diction his recitatives are far better than any tenor, with the possible exception of Christoph Pregardien. The approach of Nico van der Meel might work in the Saint John Passion, it is just awful in the Saint Matthew Passion. There is of course a generic issue in singing sacred works by Bach: more and more they will be sung by people who don't consider themselves to be Christian. While the cantata texts are for modern Christians already difficult to understand, how should a non-religious singer sing 'Mache dich, mein Herze, rein' or 'Aus Liebe will mein Heyland sterben'? Strange enough I never understood the aria 'Sehet Jesus hat die hand, uns zu fassen, ausgespannt', until I read a discussion of Eric Chafe of this text.

The baroque is an age of extremes. There are numerous reports of concert-goers actually crying when hearing slow movements of Corelli, and the goal of the composer always was: make sure the listener feels the emotion there is in this text.

A very fine example is the Blitze und Donner choir in the Saint Matthew Passion, where people are being torn by astonishment and anger. If you try to play that 'moderate' you will not do justice to the music. Personally for me this chorus is one of the items I want to hear to provide a judgment on any recording or performance of the Saint Matthew Passion.

With respect to modern performances: we know enough of the tempo markings of Mozart's time to be able to reconstruct the tempi of various movements in his symphonies. One musicologist compared 20th century recordings and strange enough Hogwood was consistently somewhat too slow in fast movements and too fast in slow movements. The only two groups I know enough who consistently follow directions by Quantz and others are Musica Antiqua Koln and Musica ad Rhenum (and yes, Jed

Wentz was involved in both). In their recordings tempo contrasts are bigger than they are in (awful word) Middle of the Road / moderate recordings.

James Mincklerstraat wrote (February 7, 2000):

Thank you for your thoughtful comments available to more novice enthusiasts like myself. Indeed, a lot would be cleared up in the discussion if we had more precise ideas of what "expression," "baroque expression" etc. means, but that would take a lot of discourse, and it tends to clarify itself anyway through the exchanges. But Johann, could you designate a performance that you find good in an exemplary way, perhaps indicating moments of superlative Baroque expression? I like in particular the Ricercar performances--e.g., on the soprano disc of Deutsche Barok Cantaten, you've got the Buxtehude "Nichts, nichts, nichts." Besides the lovely sawing away of the basses de viole with, among others, Pierlot, you've got De Reghere and Agnes Mellon as sopranos. And they do a great job interpreting the text by starting off confident, forceful, ff in Nichts, nichts, nichts zol uns scheiden...von der liebe Gottes" and then come the verses, and when they return to the chorus, the last "nichts, nichts, nichts" is very nicely understated, as if the singers are so completely confident of God's love after the exposition of this theme that they no longer need to sing forcefully, fortissimo.

Johan van Veen wrote (February 7, 2000):

(To James Mincklerstraat) This message makes clear what you mean, and I think I basically agree. I certainly know what you mean about some music for special occasions. Some music asks a lot from the listener. You just can't "hear", you have to listen careful.

James Mincklerstraat wrote (February 9, 2000):

(To Johan van Veen) Thank you for the thoughtful and informative remarks, Olivier, esp. on French 'inegal' and its difference from Italian (is Il Giardino Armonico a good representative--or do they go too far, even though they're so fun?) Yes, the expression style of the St. Matt Passion (BWV 244) will be very different from that of most cantatas. But in thinking about the 'Blitz und Donner" thing, how about performance of the bass 'Gib mir mein Jesum weider," what Judas sings after he's betrayed Christ and then decides it wasn't such a good idea after all-just before he hangs himself? This sounds really impressive if you sing it "expressive" (yes, vague)--sforzando, with all that nice MIR--but is that appropriate? It almost seems like an ironical kind of aria--it also would be completely botched if you tried to do it sentimentally, but of course the structure and tempo wouldn't permit this. Nonetheless, it seems it must have a touch of the sentimental, of regret... Know any good performances of this aria?

Michel Couzijn wrote (February 15, 2000):

(To James Mincklerstraat) I have sung this cantata myself a couple of years ago, so I can follow your explanations with vivid memories in mind. Which particular recording are you referring to? Can you give me a label and a number? I like Agnes Mellon's voice very much (maybe you heard her sing in Bach's motet 'Jesu, meine Freude by Herreweghe) and was not aware she had participated in the Buxtehude recording.

James Mincklerstraat wrote (February 10, 2000):

(To Sybrand Bakker) Thanks a lot for your comments. Onberispelijk engels, by the way. No, Sybrand, I agree it is generally not 'ironical'; 'ironical' maybe only in the sense that it is highly uncommon for Judas to be given such an impassioned contrition in the midst of a Passion story. Yes, I don't think any of us will ever know in this time why he did it; the story has led to a lot of weird and sometimes tasteless speculation (Norman Mailer has a piece on this, I believe, and I've read and promptly forgotten a few others). In combination with Erbarme dich, though: I have heard that the violin accompaniment of Erbarme dich is held to be of the 'high style' of the baroque period, while the very showy violin in the background of gib mir is more virtuoso, typical of street-musicians, 'Jewish,' to demonstrate the different characters of the different singes (perhaps Picander had more sympathy for Judas than Bach?)

Johan van Veen wrote (February 23, 2000):

Some time ago I have already written about some of the cantatas from the latest sets in the Brilliant Classics Bach Edition. Since then I have listened to these two sets more extensively, and I am going to give my opinion on them. Hopefully others will give theirs.

The first two sets have been criticised by several people in this newsgroup. Are these two sets (volumes III and IV) any better? In some respects they are. There is some improvement in the performances of Bas Ramselaar. I also liked Nico van der Meel better than in the previous sets. The orchestra and choir give some very vivid performances of a couple of opening choruses. In other respects there isn't. As said before, Ruth Holton remains her unexpressive self. I can't see real progress in Knut Schoch's performances either. There are the usual differences between the text as printed (the NBA-text) and the text that is sung. The booklets haven't improved - on the contrary: in contrast to the first two sets, these two volumes have booklets with lots of printing errors.

Some cantatas are done quite well. For example BWV 130: the opening chorus (Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir) with its large-scale instrumentation of oboes, trumpets and timpani, is very good, as is the very forceful bass-aria 'Der alte Drache brennt vor Neid', which Bas Ramselaar sings very well. But how on earth is it possible that in the recitative 'Wohl aber uns' - which is a duet of soprano and tenor - the tenor sings 'erfährt' with Umlaut (which is correct) and the soprano without? Did nobody hear that? It is just another example of the lack of precision, which characterises these recordings. This has nothing to do with views on interpretation, but simply with people (whoever) *not* doing their homework. It is characteristic for this recording project that the results are very uneven. When cantata BWV 130 is done so well, then why is Cantata BWV 81 (on the same disc) so tame? Knut Schoch can't cope with the leaps in the storm aria 'Die schäumenden Wellen' and the orchestra is just too subdued in both this aria and the bass aria 'Schweig, aufgetümtes Meer'. There are many examples of this lack of consistency. As far as Ruth Holton is concerned: she doesn't show any improvement. As I wrote earlier, her performance of cantata BWV 199 (Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut) is one of the worst of this edition, and maybe one of the worst I have ever heard. Just another example: Cantata BWV 150, the aria 'Doch bin und bleibe ich vergnügt'. She doesn't do a lot with words like 'toben', 'Kreuz', 'Sturm', 'Tod' and 'Höll'. She has problems with the low notes on 'Höll'. She is easily beaten by a boy: just listen to Ansgar Pfeiffer in the Teldec-recording. Ms Holton is the main liability of this recording. Wasn't there an alternative? What about a young German singer, like Nele Gramß? She would certainly have given far better performances. And she wouldn't have had pronunciation-problems. The contributions of the Dutch soprano Marjon Strijk (BWV 106 and a recitative in BWV 138) are too small to assess whether she could replace Ms Holton. Sytse Buwalda, on the other hand, is the 'jewel in the crown'. I like him even more than in the first two sets. His colourful voice, his well thought-over interpretations, his treatment of the text - in particular in the recitatives - is very convincing. Just some examples: BWV 81 (Jesus schläft, was soll ich hoffen, a very beautiful 'slumber aria'), BWV 13 (recitative Mein liebster Gott and chorale Der Gott, der mir hat versprochen), BWV 117 (Ich will dich all mein Leben lang), and of course the two solo cantatas BWV 35 (Geist und Seele wird verwirret) and BWV 169 (Gott soll allein mein Herze haben). When he has to sing a duet with either the soprano or the tenor, he has to take a step backwards, in order not to blow them away. The difference is rather embarrassing (for his colleagues, that is). Some of Knut Schoch's performances are allright, one of the best is the opening aria of cantata BWV 13 (Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen). But on the whole his interpretations are one-sided, and lack subtlety and variety. I never liked Kurt Equiluz' voice very much, but what a wonder of differentiation and text-interpretation is he, compared with Mr Schoch. Bas Ramselaar shows some progress. His performances of the recitatives are better than before, and in many arias he is far more convincing. He comes near the level I expected from him. The choir is good, but - as said before - too 'British' for Bach: the trebles produce an 'instrumental' sound, and the texts don't come across very well. They are also too dominant: in BWV 7 the cantus firmus (Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam) is sung by the tenors, but they are difficult to hear.

The orchestra is good, but often too colourless. In Bach's music the instruments have to illustrate and interpret the text, together with the singer/choir. That's where the orchestra, with all its qualities, regularly fails. I can't understand why the sinfonias - in particular the organ solo's - in the solo cantatas BWV 35 and BWV 169 are so lacklustre and unimaginative. And it isn't that difficult to be expressive when you can make a lot of noise, like in the opening chorus of BWV 130. It is more difficult with strings only - and there the shortcomings are all too clear. On the whole: a mixed package, with some things to enjoy, but there is still a long way to go (and maybe tough decisions to make) to produce a really convincing edition, which is able to compete in any way with the editions that are on the mor coming.

Pieter Jan Leusink: Short Biography | Holland Boys Choir | Netherlands Bach Collegium
Part 1 | Part 2 | General Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Individual Recordings:
Leusink - Vol.1&2 | Leusink - Vol.3&4 | BWV 244 - Leusink | BWV 245 – Leusink
Interview with Pieter Jan Leusink | Interview with Frank Wakelkamp
Table of Recordings by BWV Number

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