Written as a tribute piece for one Dr. August Freidrich Muller, professor at the University of Leipzig, Aeolus Pacified is not one of your everyday Bach cantatas. The thing jumps out at you and grabs you by the throat from the opening bars. The text involves four characters having a dialog with one another, Aeolus (the ancient Greek god of the wind) needing to be persuaded to grant the world some further reprieve from the fierce post-summer onslaught of stormy weather. Pomona, the goddess of gardens and orchards, wishes her fruits to remain a while. Pallas (the goddess Athena) wants the winds to play on her mountain heights, while Zephyrus (the God of the west wind) wishes to remain for a while in summer also. Eventually Aeolus is persuaded and a concluding tribute (“long live Augustus”) is issued, which is where the professor comes in.
Strange I know, and not very interesting, but believe it or not, the music is loaded with great tunes and wonderful airs and arias of the type that take Bach far away from the normal cantata style of writing. He seems to really enjoy himself in this music, and the commission of the students (he also was in Leipzig at the time) must have warmed his heart, as he poured himself into this piece.
The coupling, for the first Sunday of Advent (as no other music was provided for the other Sundays until the day of Christmas) is the cantata Let our mouths be full of laughter, slated to be a particularly joyous piece for an exceptionally joyous time in the church calendar. Bach spares us nothing in the way of exuberance; the opening chorus is punctuated by trumpets and timpani, not at all unlike the opening of several of his Suites. When the chorus finally enters the tempo changes and we are off to a brilliant and energetic triple time 9/8 bounce that alternates soloists and chorus very effectively. The arias have that mysterious “Christmas” feeling to them, brought about no doubt by a mild minor mode and the use of flutes. It is one of his most effective advent works.
Diego Fasolis just keeps churning out the hits. It is most refreshing to hear the Italians do this music, for they approach it with a less severe and more buoyant feeling than many of the Germans and Northern European ensembles, as fine as many of those are. The singers, as you can see in the heading, are top rate and noted all, and Arts is doing wondrous things with their surround sound these days. I do hope that a complete Bach set in surround is in the offing from these folks—they nowhere mention that, and perhaps wisely in today’s economics—but hope springs eternal. An excellent release.
— Steven Ritter