BACH: Cantata No. 78 “Jesu, der du meine Seele”; Arias for Voices and Instruments – soloists/Munich Bach Choir/ Soloists Ensemble of the Bach Festival Ansbach/Karl Richter/ Bach Aria Group/Wm. Scheide – HDTT

by | Aug 16, 2009 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

BACH: Cantata No. 78 “Jesu, der du meine Seele”; Arias for Voices and Instruments – Maria Stader, soprano/Ernst Haefliger, tenor/Hertha Toepper, alto/Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone/Munich Bach Choir/ Soloists Ensemble of the Bach Festival Ansbach/Karl Richter/Bach Aria Group/William H. Scheide

HDTT HDCD172 (CD-R, HQCD or  96/24 DVD-R), 49:44 ****:

Taken from an Archiv commercial 4-track tape of 1961 featuring the Bach specialist Karl Richter (1915-1981), noted for his having removed “romantic excesses” from his interpretation without having resorted to original instrumentation. Composed in Leipzig for the 14th Sunday after Trinity in 1724, Cantata 78 derives from a hymn by Johann Rist, a heartfelt penitential lament for what Bach calls “grievous spiritual woe.” The opening movement, quite chromatic, employs a choral passacaglia in layered format that suggests the depths and many-sidedness of spiritual contrition. Next, an organ quick-march tune invokes a stunning aerial duet for soprano and alto, rife with vivid text-painting of a sinner’s “hastening with feeble but eager steps” to embrace salvation. The sheer vibrancy of the melismas (on “zu dir”), the canonic coloratura acrobatics in the service of redemption, flutter with promise. Tenor Ernst Haefliger intones an anguished recitative, “Ach! Ich bin ein Kind der Suenden,” a child in spirit seeking the light. But the power of Christ’s blood shall cleanse and restore him, hence the arioso with flute and basso continuo, “Das Blut, so meine Schuld durchstreicht.”  Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau enters with a deep-voiced recitative worthy of Wagner, “Die Wunden, Naegel, Kron und Grab,” all too conscious of the death of one’s body and soul. The sore need for redemption through Jesus’ sacrifice infiltrates the ensuing aria, “Nun du wirst mein Gewissen stillen.” The solo oboe obbligato–suggestive of the flow of Jesus’ blood in living veins–demands recognition in its own right. Bach concludes with four-part harmonization of the last stanza of Rist’s chorale, devotional, illumined by a spiritual security that Bach alone provides in sanctified figures.

William H. Scheide (b. 1914), scholar, musician and philanthropist, established the Bach Aria Group in 1946.  The arias on this disc derive from an American Decca 4-track tape, especially clear in quality given the often horrid state of the old American Decca vinyl. No soloists are named, but we can clearly recognize Jan Peerce in Cantata No. 97 with violin obbligato and piano continuo. The spirit is close to that of Forgive Me, Lord from the St. Matthew Passion. The unaccredited violinist (Maurice Wilk) joins a pianist (Sergius Kagen) and cellist (Bernard Greenhouse) for two lovely concluding pages. For many years Samuel Baron served as principal flute of the Bach Aria Group, having succeeded Julius Baker. The duet from Cantata 205 for Alto, Tenor and Flute likely combines the voices of Robert Harmon, Margaret Tobias and Baker for some lyrically intertwined harmonies. Tobias joins obbligato Greenhouse and Kagen again for a contemplative aria from Cantata 70. Maurice Wilk opens the wonderful trio sonata from Cantata 157 with Greenhouse and Kagan, then bass Norman Farrow adds his hearty affirmations of devotion, “Ja, Ja.  .  .Ich lasse dich nicht,” convincing us that heaven is immanent.

Sturdy and spirited, these small gems from Bach cantatas are scrupulously presented and deliciously performed, but the principals deserve their fair share in the credits. [Audio perfectionists: don’t be put off  reading that the source is a quarter-track rather than half-track prerecorded tape. The super-high-end gear used by HDTT in all their transfers eliminates the annoying hiss that many of us might recall from quarter-track open reel tapes…Ed.]

— Gary Lemco

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