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GRAMOPHONE ( 05/ 2019)
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Reviewer: Richard Wigmore

The Trinity season in the Lutheran calendar is traditionally a time of dire admonitions and general penitential gloom. Bach, though, livened things up in the dancing opening choruses of three relatively little-known cantatas, Nos 17, 33 and 99, included on a new disc from the Thomanerchor, recorded in the ultra-resonant acoustic of Leipzig’s Lutherkirche. Topped by a fresh-toned treble line, the choir of Bach’s own church are in fine shape under Thomaskantor Gotthold Schwarz, and the Sächsische Barockorchester play with style and gusto. It was criminal of Accentus not to name the superb flautist in No 99’s frolicking obbligatos. When Bach is in extrovert Brandenburg mode (concerto influence is rife throughout these cantatas), the vigour and directness of these performances are often exhilarating. Reservations creep in with some less-thandistinctive solo singing, reinforced by comparisons with recordings from Gardiner (SDG) and Suzuki (BIS). In the faltering, sin-drenched alto aria in No 33, countertenor Stefan Kahle sounds pallid alongside Suzuki’s Robin Blaze and Gardiner’s grave-toned Natalie Stutzmann; and the pleasant but ‘churchy’ tenor Wolfram Lattke is no match for Gardiner’s James Gilchrist in either lyrical warmth or dramatic intensity. Schwarz, dubiously, opts for massed trebles in the aria ‘Herr, deine Güte reicht so weit’ in No 17, a lively triple concerto for two violins and soprano. The Thomanerchor boys cope well enough, though inevitably the effect is slightly depersonalising. This new recording has its obvious attractions. But in all three cantatas, I’d still choose the colour and rhetorical subtlety of Gardiner and his responsive forces, seasoned Bachians all.  

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