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George Chien
Fanfare, November 2011

BWV 98 is…nicely sung by soprano Hana Blaziková and Peter Kooij…Countertenor Robin Blaze and tenor Satoshi Mizukoshi, too, are admirable throughout the program. Masaaki Suzuki’s direction is virtually flawless, and the ensemble responds correspondingly. This is a worthy continuation of this marvelous series.

Jonathan Freeman-Attwood
Gramophone, August 2011

Four late works, strongly projected, with some mellifluous alto arias

Dating cantatas from Bach’s later years remains an indeterminate business, not least because their creation played a rather more occasional part in the composer’s life during the final couple of decades than the frenzied activity of Leipzig in the early to mid-1720s. Lost works, fewer hooks, and adaptations from missing secular models all conspire to chronological uncertainty. This is the case in at least one of these four mature works, O ewiges Feuer, where a recently discovered libretto places its premiere a good 15 years earlier than the 1742 of a later revision.

As with the second version of Bach’s three cantata settings of Was Gott tut (BWV98-100), this graphic Whitsun work is given a sturdy performance from Bach Collegium Japan. The compelling juxtaposition of the crackling fire of the Holy Spirit and soaring eternity leaves us less satisfied in the virtuoso opening chorus…than in Bach’s skilful transformation of “Wohl euch” from a secular “slumber aria” into an intimate spiritual devotion. Robin Blaze is at his most ringing, mellifluous and assuaging here.

Yet Masaaki Suzuki’s strength lies in summoning up a world from the text and a sense of believing it (if not always in its capacity to enable a performance to fly far from its stylistic boundaries). This he does with supreme elegance and luminosity in Sei Lob und Ehr, a superb chorale cantata in which the hymn text remains unaltered throughout, with some distinguished if small-scale singing from tenor Satoshi Mizukoshi. “Was unser Gott” evokes God’s creative sleight of hand which Suzuki accompanies with a graceful but unobtrusive continuo under delectably mellow wind dialogues. The languid and delicate tone is extended in another glorious alto aria, “Ich will dich all mein Leben”, accompanied by flautist Liliko Maeda.

If that work is evidence of Bach’s gradual move towards a more finely etched and economic style, the simple beauty of Gott, man lobet dich (yes, with another storming alto aria) lies in the entrancing “Heil und Segen” for soprano and obbligato violin. It is sung exquisitely by Hana Bla┼żíková and caps another consistently fine performance in the late autumn of Suzuki’s steadily impressive marathon.

Brian Wilson Download Roundup
MusicWeb International, July 2011

Bach’s Cantatas, even those geared to a specific occasion such as No.34, for the feast of Pentecost (Whitsun) really are for all seasons and all moods: I’m even tempted to include one recording of them in every Roundup. They don’t come much better than this new release from the BIS series with Masaaki Suzuki. For all the virtues of rival complete and partial sets, this is overall even more consistent than John Eliot Gardiner. Listen to the snippet from track 3, Robin Blaze in Wohl euch, ihr auserwählten Seelen, forget the Calvinist predestination theology, and you’ll be won over.

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