Review by: David Vernier
Artistic Quality: 10
Sound Quality: 10
This set of Bach motets performed by the Sächsisches Vocalensemble (Saxon Vocal Ensemble) has everything that the recent Sarum Consort disc on ASV (see reviews archive) does not: verve, unusually articulate expressive gestures that arise from the texts, exceptional ensemble precision, illuminating inner detail, and an overall atmosphere that conveys a sense of occasion and gives the distinct feeling that these singers both understand and love this music. These are uncompromisingly exciting performances that show, given a virtuoso ensemble and some of the most challenging music ever written for voices, just how captivating choral music can be. Some very critical listeners may complain that the energy level and uniformly brisk tempos are just a little too over-the-top, but where does it say that Bach has to be trod with heavy boots and ankle weights? Rarely will you hear these unique little masterpieces performed with such a well-balanced concept of abandon and refinement.
The rarely performed Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir (BWV 228) is a classic example of how a really fine chorus approaches a work of equally rare difficulty, never letting the energy fade or giving any slack to the relentlessly surging, churning lines. Although there are no texts included in the liner notes–unacceptable for a recording of vocal music–you could legitimately argue that the singers’ enunciation is so clear that printed texts aren’t necessary. The accompaniment, consisting of a small contingent of strings, two oboes, taille (a tenor oboe often employed by Bach), Baroque bassoon, and organ is tasteful, appropriate, and ideal–supportive without being intrusive. Yes, there is one thing the ASV recording–and several others–have that this one doesn’t: the motet BWV 230, Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden, whose authorship and qualification as a motet have been questioned. And that’s a shame, because these singers undoubtedly could have torn the cover off this high voltage work, which, with the other five, would have formed a formidable and near-definitive recording of the traditionally accepted set of six. Buy this one anyway–and add a more complete collection from one of the reference recordings described in the earlier ASV review. The sound here (no recording location is given) is exemplary. [1/24/2002]
Buy Now from Arkiv Music
Recording Details:Reference Recording: RIAS-Kammerchor (Harmonia Mundi), Sixteen (Hyperion), Gächinger Kantorei (Hänssler)
J.S. BACH - Motets BWV 225-229