This programme is centred on the chaconne: you will hear how Henry Purcell and J.S. Bach join hands in this much-loved dance form of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Of the few works of Philipp Heinrich Erlebach that survive, we perform a suite that concludes with a chaconne. The two Bach cantatas are contrasting: BWV 150 is said to be Bach’s earliest surviving cantata, BWV 78 was composed in Leipzig at the height of his career.
J.S. Bach (1685–1750): Cantata ‘Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich’, BWV 150
Philipp Heinrich Erlebach (1657–1714): Ouverture V
J.S. Bach, Cantata ‘Jesu, der du meine Seele’, BWV 78
Henry Purcell (1659–95): Chacony
The Bach Players:
Rachel Elliott soprano
Clare Wilkinson alto
Nicholas Mulroy tenor
Matthew Brook bass
Nicolette Moonen violin & director
Rodolfo Richter violin
Anne Schumann violin
Rachel Stott viola
Alison McGillivray cello
Elizabeth Bradley double bass
Marion Moonen flute
Catherine Latham oboe
James Eastaway oboe
Alastair Mitchell bassoon
Silas Standage organ
Recording & production
Producer: Roy Mowatt
Recording engineer: Alan Mosley
Recorded at St Michael’s Church, Highgate, London, 25 to 27 November 2008
A 16-page accompanying booklet includes an essay on the music by the composer Hugh Wood, texts of the words sung and with English translations, and an interview with Nicolette Moonen on ‘Playing this music’. Illustrations in the booklet and CD packet are taken from the book by Kellom Tomlinson, The art of dancing (London, 1735), supplemented by informal photographs of the musicians.
There’s something about the openness of sound, the sheer quality of music-making and the sense of connection between performers and composers that makes this a very special recording. Its contents explore the world of the Baroque chaconne, a secular dance form that became a staple of music for the concert room and chapel. The challenge of creating a piece above a repeated bass line certainly appealed to Bach, Purcell and the little-known Erlebach, each on inspired, inventive form in the works offered here. The Bach Players, a London-based collective formed in 1996, reach the music’s emotional heart with tremendous conviction.
If the idea of composing above a repeated bass line sounds like a recipe for boredom, cast your ears towards Bach’s cantata no.78, ‘Jesu, der du meine Seele’ and its delicious duet for soprano and alto, which is vivaciously performed on this recording by Rachel Elliott and Clare Wilkinson.
Purcell’s endlessly inventive genius and technical mastery merge beautifully in his Chacony to create an intoxicating musical mix. The Bach Players catch the work’s elegiac grandeur, slowly developing its expressive intensity with each repetition of the English composer’s eight-bar bass.
Rated: five stars (‘exceptional’)
AS, Classic FM, January 2010