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Sleeepers awake!

The Bach Players

  • sample

    For a sample (part of the opening chorus of Bach’s cantata ‘Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme’), click above

  • dimensions

    130 x 134 mm

  • playing time


[HPM 010]

Behind J.S. Bach stood Dietrich Buxtehude, the pre-eminent German composer of the seventeenth century and now unfairly neglected. In this recording The Bach Players reunite the two composers, featuring their settings of the text ‘Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme’ (Sleepers awake! The voice calls us). The text uses the parable, from Matthew’s gospel, of the wise and foolish virgins at the wedding feast. One of Buxtehude’s settings (BuxWV 100) is remarkable for its four violin parts, used as if they were trumpets. Also on the disc: Buxtehude’s glorious chaconne-form sacred concerto ‘Quemadmodum desiderat cervus’, for solo tenor voice and two violins, and a trio sonata for two violins, viola da gamba, and harpsichord. A sonata by Erlebach gives us the chance to hear the piccolo violin, which Bach deploys in his ‘Wachet auf’. As always in the Bach Players’ recordings, the sequence of pieces is imaginatively conceived and full of variety.

The music

Dieterich Buxtehude (c.1637 – 1707): Cantata ‘Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme’, BuxWV 101

Dieterich Buxtehude: Trio sonata in C major for two violins, viola da gamba, and basso continuo, BuxWV 266

Dieterich Buxtehude: Ciaccona aria ‘Quemadmodum desiderat cervus’ for tenor, two violins, and basso continuo, BuxWV 92

Dieterich Buxtehude: Cantata ‘Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme’, BuxWV 100

Philipp Heinrich Erlebach (1657–1714): Sonata no. 6 in F major for violono piccolo, viola da gamba, and basso continuo

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750): Cantata ‘Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme’, BWV 140

The musicians

The Bach Players:
Rachel Elliott soprano
Sally Bruce-Payne alto
Samuel Boden tenor
Jonathan Gunthorpe bass
James Eastaway oboe
Mark Radcliffe oboe
Richard Earle taille
Anneke Scott horn
Nicolette Moonen violin / piccolo violin & director
Anne Schumann violin
Oliver Webber violin
Catherine Weiss violin
Reiko Ichise viola da gamba
Olaf Reimers cello
Alastair Mitchell bassoon
Pawel Siwczak organ / harpsichord

Recording & production

Producer: Roy Mowatt
Recording engineer: Alan Mosley
Editing and mastering: Nicholas Parker

Recorded at St Michael’s Church, Highgate, London, 11–13 November 2014


A 28-page accompanying booklet includes an essay on the music by Nicholas Anderson, notes by Nicolette Moonen on the instruments used, and texts of the words sung and with English translations. The booklet and CD packet are illustrated by photographs of the musicians in concert and at the recording sessions.


[The Bach Players] prefer, as in this CD, to combine a well-known cantata by Bach with a lesser-known version of the same text. In this case the text is ‘Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme’. … We hear two settings by Buxtehude of this same text. It is a brilliant combination in which it also becomes clear what Bach did not take from Buxtehude. Together with instrumental music by Buxtehude and Erlebach, it makes for a beautifully balanced programme. The singers and players of The Bach Players are well tuned in to each other and produce a beautiful, rich ensemble sound.
Marcel Bijlo, Klassieke Zaken, February 2017

As always with Nicolette Moonen’s Bach Players, there is splendid playing, especially from the strings. The sonatas – new to me – are captivating in their fluid and lyrical forms, and the playing – the tone so pure as to be almost of a glass harmonica quality, especially of the violino piccolo – clearly a wonderful instrument (by John Barrett after Stainer from 1725 and lent by the Royal Academy of Music) with a whole page of the interesting, informative and well balanced booklet devoted to it – means that I cannot imagine a finer performance of the violino piccolo obligato in the duet from BWV 140, ‘Wenn kömmst du, mein Heil?’
David Stancliffe, Early Music Review, 16 November 2016

The other Buxtehude cantata on the disc is the gem, however. ‘Quemadmodum desiderat cervus’ is a chaconne on a two-bar theme heard 64 times, but manages over that to be subtly responsive to its text, Psalm 42, with its evocations of the hind, thirst, the water brook and visions of heavenly eternity. There is more Buxtehude on the disc in the form of one of his ensemble sonatas – always worth hearing – as well as another trio, a wispy one for piccolo violin gamba and continuo by the less well-known Philipp Heinrich Erlebach. The trouble taken to procure a piccolo violin (from the Royal Academy of Music) was evidently prompted by the presence of the Bach cantata, a somewhat sensuous work which ends the disc in surpassing style.
Lindsay Kemp, Gramophone, January 2017