J.S. Bach: The 6, make that 7, Motets

Review by: David Vernier

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

Harmonia Mundi already has a fine set of the six Bach Motets in its catalog–by René Jacobs and the RIAS-Kammerchor–but this excellent new one ups the ante with the inclusion of a seventh motet, Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn BWV Anh. 159, misattributed for years to Bach’s second cousin Johann Christoph but now all but certainly regarded as an early work by the master himself. It’s now common to include the work on recordings with the traditional group of six–Rilling (Hänssler), Hilliard Ensemble (ECM), Holten (Glossa), Suzuki (BIS)–just as it’s also often excluded, along with Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden BWV 230, by overly fussy “authenticists” who refuse to accept the strong stylistic evidence of Bach’s authorship and prefer instead to banish these wonderful pieces from the Bach canon. For me, I’d rather err on the side of inclusion, and would ask the doubters to please tell us who in fact did compose them if Bach didn’t.

With that in mind, the present recording makes a first-rate impression in every category, from the thoughtful programming to the exemplary performances to the vibrant, clear, naturally balanced sound. Yes, there are many very good performances of these works, but Marcus Creed and his Vocalconsort Berlin go beyond most of those renditions to give us readings that look beneath the literal surface of both music and texts–there is a slight give in the tempos, a little more shape to dynamics, and a proper acknowledgment that there’s an emotional aspect to these works, whether celebratory or more solemn, that demands more than a technically polished presentation. Komm, Jesu, komm is the best example here, where Creed and his singers so effectively–and affectingly–capture the moods and meaning, from resignation to hopeful anticipation. There’s a small continuo accompaniment–violone and organ–that lends complementary, unobtrusive support to the voices.

While the Channel Classics reference recording remains a top choice for the “traditional six”, this one leaves Bach fans little recourse but to enrich their collections with a set of the truly authentic, “magnificent seven”. [3/17/2011]

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Dijkstra (Channel Classics), This one

J.S. BACH - Motets BWV 225-230; BWV Anh. 159 (Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn)

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