BACH Cantatas Vol.37 – BWVs 115-117. Various/Bach-Collegium Stuttgart/Rilling (Hännsler) – INKPOT
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
|Gchinger Kantorei Bach-Collegium Stuttgart
Wurtembergisches Kammerorchester Heilbrown
directed by Helmuth Rilling
Includes German texts with translations in French, English and Spanish.
HÄNSSLER Classic CD 92.037
|After the general excellence of Volume 36 in this series , the present disc came as a disappointment. While conductor Helmut Rilling’s tempi are as brisk as ever, there isn’t quite the same snap in the first two works that enlivened the cantatas on the previous disc, and BWV 116 is little short of a disaster on several counts. Moreover, some decidedly uneven engineering has left the results very mixed. Matters improve in BWV 117, but one out of three is not a good average. As well as that performance goes – and it goes very well, indeed – I would hesitate on recommending the disc for just one work.
BWV 115 Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit (“Get thyself, my soul, prepared’). This is a subdued, intimate cantata with the relative lushness of BWV 112-114 replaced with a chamber music-like transparency. The music of the opening chorus, at first playful, takes on an urgent character as the singers urge us to “fleh und bete” (“pray and plead,” as Dr. Bomba’s notes more accurately translate, than “begging, praying” in Hanssler’s libretto).
This urgency carries over into the aria for alto, where we are implored, “Oh slumbering spirit / Arouse thyself now.” Helen Watts acquits herself well in this movement, though here the Hänssler engineers have left her at somewhat a disadvantage, with the instrumentalists, closer miked than she, coming dangerously close to drowning her out. The players also seem somewhat stilted in this movement; greater sensitivity in phrasing would have made their passages seem less monotonous than they are here.
Usually it is the arias in which Bach’s talent best shines, but here the recitative also comes off well, thanks to Wolfgang Schne’s strong contribution. The aria that follows seems to float on air, despite some earthbound solo flute work, due to Arlene Augr’s matchless phrasing. The miking in both these movements is also better than in the first aria, but there is still somewhat of an inequity of balance, more so in the aria than in the recitative. Lutz-Michael Harder comes off less pleasantly in the second recitative than his fellow singers in the preceding movements, but that and the final chorale are both brief.