Mstation Classical Reviews

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Mon, 30 May 2005

Bach, Cantatas

J.S. Bach, Cantatas from Leipzig 1724
BWV 5, 80, 115
Bach Collegium Japan
Masaaki Suzuki

It's interesting how the politics of religion reveal themselves time after time in Western music. In one of these gorgeous cantatas the triumphalism of the Reformation cantata was added to considerably by Bach's eldest son who was living in a Lutheran area when the original composition had been made where the local leading citizen had converted to Catholicism because, it is said, of ambitions in Poland. It was presumed that Bach himself had been the author of the triumphal bits and it wasn't until later that the truth was discovered.

Although Bach might use Martin Luther's words, he, for me at least, completely transends any liturgical difficulties or differences in dogma between flavours of Christianity. Here is the noble, the good, the optimistic, and the beautiful. Really, one doesn't need to know any more and I suppose that attitude fits in well with today's secular society, but, on my part, that's an accident.

This is a Japanese production sponsored by NEC and it really is very good. People used to complain that Japanese players were a little like the French doing rock 'n' roll -- they got the moves but otherwise just didn't get it at all. This wasn't fair but did have some truth to it especially when dealing with items from the keyboard repertoire. It was a little like the admirable honour-thy-work attitude left little room for the subtlties of expression which mark the truely great performances.

There is nothing mechanical about this performance. It's a credit to all concerned.

(Count K)

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