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Daniel Taylor & Theatre of Early Music
Cantatas BWV 131, BWV 152 & BWV 161


J.S. Bach: Cantatas 131-152-161


Cantatas BWV 131 [21:11], BWV 152 [16:18], BWV 161 [19:21]

Daniel Taylor

(OVPP - No Choir) / Theatre of Early Music

Soprano: Suzie LeBlanc; Counter-tenor: Daniel Taylor; Tenor: Jan Kobow; Bass: Stephen Varcoe

ATMA Classique ACD2-2279

Aug 12-15, 2001

CD / TT: 56:50

Recorded at Église Sainte-Geneviève, Pierrefonds (Québec), Canada.
See: Cantatas BWV 131, BWV 152 & BWV 161 - conducted by Daniel Taylor
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BWV 131, 152, 161 Theatre of Early Music/Daniel Taylor

Francis Browne wrote (April 27, 2003):
In recent discussions about OVPP I have been surprised that nobody has mentioned this recording. I bought it out of curiosity some months ago, and have listened repeatedly to it with great delight.

The ensemble was founded by the counter tenor Daniel Taylor ' as answer to the instrumentalists' and singers' search for music-making opportunities which would bring back the sacredness into their creative process' and informative notes by Bruce Haynes discuss the performance practices adopted, referring to 'Rifkin's astonishing discovery (sic) of the nature of Bach's choir' and 'continued resistance from the "established " authorities' to OVPP.

I would hesitate to accept so definite a conclusion to a subject of such great controversy. I listen as readily to Richter as Rifkin and OVPP seems to be a valid performance option rather than incontrovertible truth. But Haynes is more persuasive when he suggests ' the most effective argument is performances like the ones recorded here. The advantages in clarity and expressive suppleness are plain to hear.'

For the performances of the carefully chosen cantatas do bear out his claim. BWV 152 'Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn' and BWV 161 'Komm, du süsse Todesstunde' obviously lend themselves very readily to a small scale, intimate approach but BWV 131 'Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, is also very successful .

Since it is one of the cantatas recorded by Rifkin it allows a direct comparison. In my opinion Daniel Taylor's group are more persuasive advocates of Rifkin's theory than Rifkin himself : the soloists both sing and blend together better and the instrumental playing both here and in the other cantatas is of a high standard.

Whether their approach would work so well with larger scale choral cantatas I have my doubts. But I certainly hope they will add to this excellent disc.

I include details of the record below and a generally favourable review from Gramophone (I would be more enthusiastic about Taylor's singing in BWV 161.)

Does anyone share my enthusiasm? I would be interested to hear different opinions.

Francis Browne

Cantata No 131, 'Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, BWV 131. Cantata No 152, 'Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn', BWV 152. Cantata No 161, 'Komm, du süsse Todesstunde', BWV 161.
Suzie Leblanc sop Daniel Taylor alto Jan Kobow ten Stephen Varcoe bass
Theatre of Early Music/Daniel Taylor
ATMA CD ACD22279 (57 minutes : DDD)

Selected Comparisons
<A HREF="">Collegium Vocale, Herreweghe (3/00) (Virg) 5617</A>

Thoughtful interpretations of early Bach from a group on a ‘sacred’ mission'

To ‘bring back the sacredness into the creative process’ is how the Theatre of Early Music describes its quest. These three intensely wrought cantatas could not provide a more fitting opportunity as they traverse the attentive rhetorical world of Bach’s early vocal music. Quite what ‘sacredness’ means for their director, countertenor Daniel Taylor, is hard to know but it would seem from his intimate reading of the antique-style sacred concerto Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, that lucid argument of textual detail and a telling undercurrent of instrumental ‘images’ play an important part in his vision.

This is a work whose contemplative pacing is enhanced by Bach’s seamless and arching plan of movements, delivered in quick succession, each with its disarmingly personal directness; ‘meine Seele harret’ (‘my soul is waiting’) from the second choral section is as close to pure devotion as you get in Bach. Despite the occasional vocal strains of using ‘Chorton’ – a pitch known to be used in Weimar and its environs which raises the key up a significant notch – Taylor’s sensitive approach is musically satisfying in many essential respects even if the voices, individually or collectively as chorus, fail to penetrate the expressive regions of Herreweghe’s exceptional account.

In the other two cantatas, the crystal-clear recorded sound brings out some irresistible qualities in the performances, such as the deeply touching ‘Sinfonia’ to the little-known Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn, where the characterful obbligato recorder, oboe and violin chatter with the sureness of disciples truly treading the path of faith. Again, intimacy of sentiment is key to a successful rendering of these early pieces. The experienced Stephen Varcoe brings veracity of expression to the poet’s unfettered evangelism in the first aria, as does the tenor Jan Kobow in the great prototype ‘longing’ aria from Mein Verlangen, of the kind which Bach was to introduce regularly in his Leipzig cycles.

I’m not certain this repertoire shows off Suzie LeBlanc’s greatest strengths and Taylor himself is a variable vocal presence, though at best a soft-grained and imploring one. With a few vocal quibbles, the instrumental playing is first-rate and whatever ‘sacredness’ means to these musicians, thoughtfulness and conviction permeate these performances. I’m glad to know them. Cantata BWV 161 is particularly fine and conceptually the most effective version around.
Jonathan Freeman-Attwood

Daniel Taylor: Short Biography | Theatre of Early Music | Recordings | Cantatas BWV 131, BWV 152 & BWV 161 - Daniel Taylor

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