Andreas Scholl | Bach
Andreas Scholl

Andreas Scholl
Bach Cantatas
CD 478 2733
Also available as download
Pre-Release USA: October 2011
Internat. Release date: January 2012

The Music

Andreas Scholl has written a personal commentary: my role is to be more factual. What, for instance, is a cantata? There is a catch here, since Bach’s term for what we refer to as his canta­tas was usually Concerto: a piece for voices and instruments in the concertato style, i. e. soloists and instruments performing together as a small group. In a programme with a solo voice, there is no need to be concerned about the question of whether Bach had a choir in the modern sense of the term. Most of the music in his cantatas is for solo voices: sometimes there is an opening chorus, usually a closing chorale. The theological narrative and personal interpretation of the theme of a cantata (usually related to the Sunday’s Bible reading) comes from the soloists, often interacting with a solo instrument in equal partnership.

Cantata BWV 82, “Ich habe genug” (“genung” in recent editions), was composed for the Feast of the Purification (2 February) in 1727 for bass soloist, and subsequently performed by mezzo-soprano (perhaps in the same key, C minor) and by soprano in E minor. Most music of the period written for bass does not work when transposed, because bass characteristics are embodied in the vocal part so that it sounds wrong an octave higher. But here, Bach must have expected the cantata also to be suitable for a higher voice. It is scored for strings and oboe, whose plaintive tone matches the sombre tone of the text: The infant Jesus is brought to the Temple for blessing and the aged Simeon pronounces the text that survives 2000 years later in Catholic, Anglican (and no doubt other) evening services: “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace.” BWV 200, “Bekennen will ich seinen Namen”, a single aria with two violins and continuo, dates from the early 1740s and was perhaps also written for the Purification.

Cantata BWV 169, “Gott soll allein mein Herze haben”, was first performed on 20 October 1726, and relates to the theme of that Sunday: “Love your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbour as yourself.” The scoring is more varied, with three oboes (and probably bassoon) as well as strings. There is also a solo role for the organist in the first and fifth movement; in the third movement the organ is the obbligato instrument.

Cantata BWV 53, “Schlage doch, gewünschte Stunde”, despite being one of the better-known cantatas, is probably by Georg Melchior Hoffmann (ca. 1679–1715). Like Telemann, he studied law in Leipzig and had a successful musical career there. It is a single aria, scored for strings with two bells sounding a knell, memorable and powerful, irrespective of who wrote it.

BWV 161 no. 4, “Der Schluss ist schon gemacht” (performed 27 September 1716), is a power­ful recitative, scored for two recorders (symbols of death) as well as strings, from the Cantata “Komm, du süße Todesstunde”. It is based on the appointed Gospel reading from Luke chapter 7, which describes how Jesus raised a young man from death. This album also contains the instrumental introduction to Cantata BWV 150, “Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich”, one of Bach’s earliest sacred works.
© 2011 Clifford Bartlett
9/2011