All four works in this volume of Masaaki Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan's acclaimed cycle of Bach cantatas come from the second half of 1726. During this period Bach often chose works by other composers for his weekly performances in the Leipzig Thomaskirche, and was therefore able to dedicate more time and effort to those cantatas that he did compose himself. In particular the introductory choruses of the cantatas included here demonstrate this, with their large-scale, almost symphonic conception. The chorus that opens the disc, Herr, deine Augen... from Cantata BWV 102, has a long and multifaceted text which deals with the need for repentance. Bach binds this together in a close-knit structure of recurring themes and motifs, while incorporating fugal sections and passages of a striking, madrigal-like quality. In contrast, the opening chorus of the closing cantata, BWV 19, depicts the victorious struggle of the archangel Michael and his host against Satan, the ‘great dragon', with martial music for which trumpets and timpani are added to the orchestra. Reviews of recent releases in this series have confirmed the consistently high quality of the enterprise. The BBC Music Magazine, for instance, described Volume 45 as ‘superlative – virtually flawless performances of three of Bach's most inspired cantatas.' Similar praise has also met the team's new recording of Bach's motets, which was ‘strongly recommended' in the International Record Review, with the added remark: ‘This beautifully judged recording – is one of the most persuasive available.' The soloists on the present instalment include three seasoned participants in Robin Blaze, Gerd Türk and Peter Kooij. Newer to the cantata series is the soprano Hana Blažíkova, whose first appearance, on Volume 43, was noticed by many reviewers, for instance in Diapason: ‘Blazikova proves to be excellent: her opening aria [Süsser Trost] – exuding a deeply poignant poetry.'
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