Lieberson Plumbs Bach’s Depths (and more)

Review by: Robert Levine


Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

Bach’s cantata BWV 199 begins “My heart swims in blood/The results of my sins/Transform me into a monster,” and ends, “And through my grief and pain/No longer am I excluded/From His bliss or His heart.” Serious, pious, introspective stuff, indeed, and this recording, in superb sound, features the lamented Lorraine Hunt Lieberson performing the cantata live in Los Angeles in 2003.

The disc’s brief playing time (the cantata takes just 28 minutes) should not put you off: there is a lifetime of great and deep music-making here. Lieberson’s flawless tone, utterly even and capable of a dozen shades of dynamics and colors, along with her almost uncanny ability to convey feelings as rich as those expressed here, turns this half hour into an almost intimate experience, as if one were hearing the confession of a dear friend or a dear soul. Her simplicity is epic, to coin an oxymoron; she can drive one to tears. I’m unaccustomed to gushing like this, and my connection with devout anything, let alone Christianity, is less than tenuous, but I was stunned by the beauty of the singing, playing, and sincerity and so will you be. It’s like listening to the truth.

A quick, sharp performance of Bach’s Fourth Brandenburg serves as a curtain-raiser. The solo violin (Margaret Batjer is the leader and soloist) takes a wild ride in the last movement, and throughout, the performance is brilliant and exhilarating.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Album Title: Lorraine
Reference Recording: This one

  • BACH, J.S.:
    Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 BWV 1049; “Mein Herze schwimmt in Blut” BWV 199

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