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Bach Collegium Japan Cantatas on BIS

Bach: Secular Cantatas, Vol. 4 (Academic Cantatas)

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Bach never wrote an opera. Yet his feeling for drama and the projection of human emotions is clear in so many of his vocal works. The first of two cantatas on Masaaki Suzuki’s latest album captures the composer’s dramatic insights. Subtitled ‘Aeolus appeased’, it was written in honour of a popular lecturer at Leipzig University.

The piece, to a plot drawn from classical myth, was probably first performed outside the academic’s house. It describes how Aeolus, god of the winds, is pacified by requests from fellow deities to join them in celebrating the teacher’s nameday. Its light and shade, its bluster and joyful humour, are boldly highlighted by Suzuki and his Bach Collegium team, with Roderick Williams on fine form as Aeolus.

Vereinigte Zweitracht der wechselnden Saiten, written for another Leipzig lecturer, falls far short of drama. But it contains irresistible music, some of it lifted by Bach from his First Brandenburg Concerto. Robin Blaze is the star turn here, the generous personification of Gratitude in his big aria. Although Wolfram Lattke’s boyish tenor is marked by a taste I’ve yet to acquire, the restless energy of his singing sits well with Bach’s writing in the aria ‘Zieht euren Fuß’.