Ryan Michero wrote (June 27, 1999):
Here is another triumph of Suzuki's ongoing complete cantata cycle. This one certainly lives up to the high standards Suzuki has set in previous volumes. There is not a whiff of tedium here; Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan bring freshness and excitement to every cantata. The works recorded here are from Bach's first few weeks at Leipzig, and one gets the feeling the new Kantor was trying especially hard to impress his new employers with the large-scale BWV 76. The other two pieces here, BWV 24 and BWV 167 are smaller in scale but, to me, equally impressive.
BWV 76 - "Die Himmel erzaehlen die Ehre Gottes"
This is a large-scale, fourteen-movement piece from Bach's first days at Leipzig, a companion piece to BWV 75, recorded on Vol.8. The opening chorus is rousing and majestic, culminating in an exciting fugue, and Suzuki and the BCJ perform it with an irresistible sense of joy. A fine accompanied recitative follows, with beautifully shaded strings and excellent singing from Gerd Türk, who has quickly become one of my favorite tenors. The next aria, for soprano and solo violin, is beautifully performed by Midori Suzuki and Ryo Terakado, with each of them adding nice ornaments on the repeat. After a bass recitative, there is an aria with obbligato trumpet played wonderfully by Toshio Shimada, who makes a great impression on this volume. Robin Blaze expressively sings the next alto recitative, and he seems to be a worthy replacement to Yoshikazu Mera. The BCJ choir and orchestra, who always sound fine, surpass themselves on this volume, producing a ravishing sound on the closing chorale of part one. The second part begins with an instrumental Sinfonia with obbligato viola da gamba and oboe d'amore (played by the wonderful Alfredo Bernardini) which sounds amazing in these musicians' hands. After Chiyuki Urano sings a dramatic recitative, there is an almost violent tenor aria, sung with much expression by Türk, accompanied with a rough-edged cello in the continuo. Blaze excels in the ensuing recitative and aria (again with viola da gamba and oboe d'amore), singing with heart-melting sweetness. The chorale reappears to close the work, and the final bars are ravishing.
BWV 24 - "Ein ungefaerbt Gemuete"
The next cantata one of Bach's many fine smaller cantatas, produced for the second week of his employment. The work opens with a major-key aria for alto, which Blaze sings beautifully. The strings play their low-lying melody here with rich, dark tone. After a tenor recitative, there is a powerful chorus, the centerpiece of the work. Suzuki and the BCJ again excel, sounding majestic and powerful at the start, lithe and exciting in the double fugue. Interestingly, Shimada here plays the "clarino" line with specially made instrument, a cross between a horn and a trumpet (Suzuki explains this choice in greater detail in the notes). Urano shows a great range of expression in his recitative. I tend to prefer Peter Kooij, but Urano doesn't disappoint. The oboes d'amore in the next tenor aria sound wonderful, and the BCJ again makes a lovely sound in the closing chorale.
BWV 167 - "Ihr Menschen, ruehmet Gottes Liebe"
This one begins with what has to be one of my favorite Bach arias, a gorgeous, pastoral tenor aria in G-major with a Siciliano rhythm. The strings are ravishing here, and there seems to be a great rapport between Suzuki, Türk, and the orchestra. Suzuki beautifully shades the melodic line, and he makes the music skip along marvelously. Well-done! After an alto aria, there is a duet for soprano and alto. Although I love the sound of the oboe da caccia here, I'm not so sure about the rest of the aria. Perhaps the singers' voices don't blend well enough, or perhaps the writing, with vocal phrases piled up on top of each other, just sounds a bit strange when performed. Or perhaps I just need to listen to it again! There is a bass recitative next, which ends with a lovely quote of the chorale melody that will end the work. The final chorale setting is lively, with an irresistible ritornello melody wonderfully played by the BCJ. A satisfying end to another excellent volume.