Bach's Trauer Ode is greatly
admired, as well it should be, but it hasn't received the attention on
records that it deserves, Westminster issued a fine mono version by Hermann
Scherchen (who else?) three decades ago, but I would guess that many more
Schwanns, have been printed without a listing for Cantata 198 than with one.
Thus this splendid new release from Harmonia Mundi is doubly welcome. The
origin of this funeral cantata is typical of Bach's stormy relationship with
his superiors in Leipzig, who charged that his lack of a university degree
made him unqualified to undertake such an important commission. We are
fortunate that Bach had already completed the score when university
officials tried to retrieve the libretto, since the resulting cantata is not
only intellectually stimulating but deeply affecting as well, especially in
the poignant opening and concluding choruses (there is no chorale setting).
Perhaps the most unusual and striking movement is the alto recitative that
evokes the tolling of bells. Bach later reworked several movements from the
Trauer Ode for his St. Mark Passion, now lost.
du meine Seele (BWV 78), which shares the disc, is another of Bach's finest
cantatas, but one that has never lacked representation on discs. La Chapelle
Royale here comprises 16 voices (including both genders in the high voices)
and an original-instruments ensemble that numbers 23. Herreweghe leads
beautifully integrated, highly affecting performances of both works. The
tempos tend to be quick (though he takes the remarkable duet of Cantata 78
at a much more relaxed pace than Rilling). The recording is warm and clear.
Full texts and translations into French and English are provided. This disc
is long overdue and highly recommended.
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