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GRAMOPHONE (05/2009)
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Harmonia Mundi

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Reviewer: Jonathan Freeman-Attwood

A Bernarda Fink recital of these works was always likely to establish itself with a profoundly engaging sense of poetic instinct and rhetorical ease (her recent Brahms recital – 5/07 – is testament to that) and she rarely disappoints. Vergnügte Ruh’ (BWV170) exudes the greatest vocal and emotional comfort here; honeyed lines grace the opening siciliano and, more striking still, the treacherous “Wie jammern” with its curious harmonic quirks sustained with remarkably coherent and intense images of pity for the emptiness of the wayward.

The Freiburgers’ organist Wolfgang Zerer finds a gratifying blend with the flute in the latter aria and his quixotic playing in the other two cantatas – with their fully fledged concerto movements – knows few bounds of taste and dexterity, if occasionally it is a little too straight and uninflected. The orchestra sounds unfailingly impressive and responsive.

If there are misgivings about Fink, they concern a kind of registral discomfort in some of these movements which inhibits her expressive ambitions. BWV169 never sounds as natural as elsewhere, covered vowels seem rather enervating and pitch sinks too often, perhaps on account of slightly too slow tempi. Compensation for unharried tempi lies in the arias where she and the orchestra find memorable accord such as the uplifting “Bach goes to town”-style aria from BWV35, “Gott hat alles wohlgemacht!” (“God has made all things good”).

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