Catch me if you cantata

J.S. Bach doesn’t get a lot of attention on this site although he wrote tons of vocal music, so “Trove Thursday” fills that gap a bit with live performances of four of his solo cantatas performed in strikingly different styles by Maria Stader, Christian Gerhaher, Janet Baker and Carolyn Sampson

Although there are a couple of secular cantatas (not an oxymoron) and of course the two passions and the B-minor Mass, Bach’s vast vocal output consists mostly of smaller-scaled sacred works tied to the liturgical calendar Most of the cantatas are for several soloists (often SATB) and alternate arias and choruses. There are, however, a number of solo works of which three of the best-known are included in today’s selections.

La Cieca received these audio files months ago, but I was pleased to see that both Sampson and Gerhaher popped up in the New York Times’s “The 25 Best Classical Music Recordings of 2017” published last week.

Sampson’s Bach CD features the “Wedding” cantata (sung here by Stader) but does not include the celebrated #51 with virtuoso trumpet obbligato which is presented here.

These four performances fall neatly into two camps; although those from the 2010s are not HIP per se, they reflect the more recent taste for swifter tempi and leaner textures than the somewhat slower, heavier renditions from the 1960s.

Due to her tiny physical stature, Stader sang virtually no staged opera although she did record a number of Mozart roles. There don’t seem to be very many live performances around so this late “Wedding” Cantata is a treat. My first “Ich habe genug” was the Baker recording on EMI as occasionally mezzos sing the piece. Her performance of cantata #35 is particularly interesting as it documents her long-time collaboration with Benjamin Britten albeit in music not written by him.

Neither Sampson nor Gerhaher has yet performed opera on stage in the US but each appears here in concert occasionally. I heard Sampson in a lovely if verbally vague recital earlier this year at Alice Tully Hall and Gerhaher visits in May to sing Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with Stuart Skelton, Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra at Geffen Hall.

Bach: “Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten“ BWV 202 (Wedding Cantata)

Orchestra Hall, Chicago
2 June 1966

Maria Stader

Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Jean Martinon – conductor

Bach: “Ich habe genug” BWV 82
BBC Proms
30 Aug 2016

Christian Gerhaher

Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester
Philippe Jordan — conductor

Bach: “Geist und Seele” BWV 35
Aldeburgh Festival
12 June 1969

Janet Baker

English Chamber Orchestra
Benjamin Britten — conductor

Bach: “Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen” BWV 51
Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco
1 May 2014

Carolyn Sampson

Mark Inouye, trumpet
San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Ton Koopman — conductor

The final “Trove Thursday” of 2017 next week will be something altogether more festive.

Each cantata can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward on its audio player and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.

Sorry no Weihnachts Oratorium but for those who hunger for Handel’s Messiah at this time of year, here’s Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s recent version with an impressive line-up of soloists.

Many other “Trove Thursday” podcasts remain available from iTunes for free, or via any RSS reader.