BACH: Cantatas Vol. 18 = BWV 70, “Watch ye, pray ye, watch and pray”; BWV 9, “Now is to us salvation come”; BWV 182, “King of heaven, ever welcome” – La Petite Bande/ Sigiswald Kuijken – Accent multichannel SACD 25318, 70:41 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

It’s becoming quite repetitive listing the objections and virtues of this series, or even mentioning again that even though I vociferously disagree with the premises, Kuijken seems to win me over every time with the obvious quality and devotion of the performances. This is Volume 18, and I reviewed 17 just a couple of months ago, so the series proceeds apace—rapidly. Though it’s just the church cantatas that are being issued, one can only hope that the success of the series will lead him to consider the others as well once all is said and done.

On this release we are given three disparate and time-distant works. No. 70, one of the more vigorous and lively of Bach’s church works, was originally conceived in Weimar for the second Sunday of Advent. When Bach was in Leipzig, realizing that there were no cantatas allowed during that season, he reconstructed the work for the 26th Sunday of Trinity, which traditionally, with a few exceptions, was the last Sunday before Advent. The gospel selections were the same for both Sundays, centering on the last judgment, and the Leipzig version recorded here is more expansive.

Thirteen years later No. 9 makes its appearance, and is one of the later choral cantatas. The theme is the difference between the Christian concepts of justice versus that of the Pharisees. Only flute and oboe d’amore join the strings in this modestly scored work. No. 182 is an early 1714 Weimar Palm Sunday piece that was given that year with the Annunciation which fell on the same day. He also made a subsequent Annunciation-only revision that included certain alterations for Leipzig years later, even though normally no music was allowed during Lent—an exception being made for this feast. However, this recording sticks with the original dual-feast 1714 version. Strings only were the usual accompaniment for the Weimar works, though this one uses a recorder in place of one of the violins.

Standards are as high as ever in this fine series, and there is certainly no need to stop collecting now.

—Steven Ritter