Magazine article Gramophone

JS Bach: Cantatas-No 54

Magazine article Gramophone

JS Bach: Cantatas-No 54

Article excerpt

JS Bach [G]

Cantatas--No 54, Widerstehe doch der Siinde (a); No 82, Ich habe genug (a); No 170, Vergnugte Ruh', beliebte Seelenlust (a); No 52--Sinfonia; No 174-Sinfonia (a) lestyn Davies counterten Arcangelo / Jonathan Cohen Hyperion (F) CDA68111 (65' * DDD * T/t)

The question is not if but when a distinguished countertenor decides to record the Bach solo alto cantatas. The catalogue offers a remarkable range of individual vocal timbres which seem to influence interpretative parameters to a startling degree. One thinks of Alfred Deller's small, floating lines unveiling exquisite intimations in Cantatas Nos 54 and 170 (with the young Leonhardt and Harnoncourt and their future wives) testing the historical waters in the early 1950s (Vanguard). At the other extreme, Andreas Scholl projects his honeyed and flexible instrument with richly uncompromising projection (Harmonia Mundi, 5/98).

Iestyn Davies falls somewhere in between the two and yet he is no less distinctive in personality and musical ambition. Jonathan Cohen's invigorating direction of the top-notch Arcangelo and Davies's extraordinarily questing approach make for a happy balance between abstract delight and rhetorical flair. For example, in the centrepiece of No 170, 'Wie jammern'--a world turned upside down by Satan--disorientation is conveyed more by a plague-like itchiness than by the tendency to over-emphasise the imagery. There are a few unsettled moments in No 170 and there have been more close-knit readings between singer and obbligato organ, but the crystalline character here is original and affecting. …

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