When J.S. Bach was given the post of Kantor at the Thomasschule in Leipzig he joined a long line of musicians in this position, among them Schein, Schelle, and Kuhnau. This disc provides recordings of their treatments of texts that Bach would also set, and demonstrates the extraordinary strength and beauty of German church music of those times. It concludes with the first cantata that Bach wrote after his Leipzig appointment. ‘Die Elenden sollen essen’ is a master-work, notable for its virtuosic trumpet part. This is a show-piece, and a fitting debut for his work at St Thomas’s.
Johann Hermann Schein (1586–1630): Geistliches Konzert ‘Nun komm der Heiden Heiland’
Johann Schelle (1648–1701): Canon on ‘Nun komm der Heiden Heiland’
Johann Schelle: Cantata ‘Aus der Tiefen’
Johann Hermann Schein: ‘Banchetto musicale’, no. 20 in E minor
Johann Kuhnau (1660–1720): Cantata ‘Was Gott tut das ist wohlgetan’
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750): Cantata ‘Die Elenden sollen essen’, BWV 75
The Bach Players:
Rachel Elliott soprano
Sally Bruce-Payne alto
Thomas Hobbs tenor
Robert Davies bass
Adrian Woodward trumpet
James Eastaway oboe
Mark Radcliffe oboe
Alastair Mitchell bassoon
Nicolette Moonen violin & director
Anna Curzon violin
Oliver Wilson viola
Rachel Stott viola
Luise Buchberger cello
Silas Wollston organ / harpsichord
Recording & production
Producer: Roy Mowatt
Recording engineer: Alan Mosley
Editing and mastering: Nicholas Parker
Recorded at St Michael’s Church, Highgate, London, November 2015
The accompanying 24-page booklet includes notes on the music by the keyboardist Silas Wollston, and texts of the words sung and with English translations. There are photographs of the musicians in concert and in the recording. The CDs and booklet are held in a packet made of card and without plastic.
Bach and his predecessors. It is not a bad idea to place Johann Sebastian Bach in the line – not a continuous line, Michael and Knüpfer are missing – of those who preceded him as Cantor at St Thomas’s Leipzig. It is a nice formula, to make a journey through the better part of the sacred baroque German repertoire.
Schein is represented by a very short sacred concerto – which is followed by an instrumental canon by Schelle over the same choral melody ‘Nun komm der Heiden Heiland’ – and the last instrumental suite from his Banchetto Musicale (as is well-known, the most important collection of original dances of the German seventeenth century, of which Praetorius was, more than anything else, a collector).
Schelle, who introduced to Leipzig cantatas with texts in German based on the gospel of the day, and had to face the resistance to this change, is represented by a cantata that is symmetrically organized in a succession of choruses – at times the instrumentalists answering the soloists – and arias supported by the instrumental bass, ending with an instrumental ritornello.
Kuhnau innovates again by introducing the choral cantata – here represented by the very beautiful ‘Was Gott tut’ – which in the future will give so much inspiration to Bach, who appears here with Cantata BWV 75.
The Bach Players, possessors of a nourishing discography not sufficiently known in this part of the world, take the approach of one voice per part and are magnificent performers, both in the vocal and instrumental department. The voices – clean, flexible perfectly blended – perform the cantatas with a natural and elegant musicality, while the instrumental group achieves its function at a truly enviable level, producing interpretations that, apart from being intimate, are able to move us. Added to this is a good informative booklet and an impeccable sound quality. The clear conclusion: a very good disc.
Mariano Acero Ruilópez, Scherzo, no. 339, April 2018, p. 53