Cher Public

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.

  • Camille

    Goody Gumdrops! These arrive just in time to act as boon companions to the annual Bach Christmas Fest on

    There are, as well, transmissions of various types
    of seasonal services from St Thomas Episcopal Church here in Manhattan, featuring one of the few surviving boys choir schools extant and available at:

    Webcast via

    Whatever your creed is, the singing is absolutely exquisite. As well, the great organist and resident choirmaster, Daniel Hyde’s playing of Bach is simply exemplarary and revelatory. You will never think of or hear J S Bach in the same way after hearing him play some of those introits.

    Happy, merry, and thank g-d a brand new year is icumen in!

    • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

      Cami, Mr. Corwin and i have collided once again with our programming; earlier today I posted a Teresa Stich-Randall album of Mozart and the Bach BWV 51. Of all possible opinions, I will be most curious to hear yours on the differences between the two performances -- both singers and orchestras.

      • Bill

        Both Stader and Stich-Randall had instrumental voices (with Stich-Randall just a bit tighter vibrato.
        They are interesting choices in that at the time they were performing, the type of soprano singing
        early music (Kirby for example) was more coming into vogue rather than the norm. I think either Stich-Randall or Stader could easily fit into today’s style of singing Bach and both had beautiful voices and
        a wonderful sense of pitch. Stader sang only one role at the Vienna Opera The Queen of the Night
        in 1948 with Krips conducting. Stich-Randall was there in Vienna from 1953. Stader recorded quite a bit with DGG including Masses, Stabat Maters and such. She was Hungarian by birth (name Molnar) but later adopted by a Swiss family and raised in Switzerland. I think I heard her only once in NYC at a mostly Mozart concert singing the Exaltate Jubilate. Her voice was not large but
        it was clear and penetrated well in the (then) Philharmonic Hall. I think that both Stich-Randall and Stader should be better known today than they probably are -- no theatrics -- just pure clear stylish singing with fluidity and even tone in florid music.

      • Camille

        I am doing my homework as I speak! Bis später!

    • Dan Patterson

      I love Stich-Randall and have since I first heard her records two thousand years ago. She satisfies in ways no other singer does, for me. I even love her recordings of bel canto and other arias, odd as they are. Her pitch perfect singing and ability to negotiate any interval still amaze me.

      • She is (or perhaps was -- time passes) very highly regarded in France, largely on account of Mozart performances in Aix many years ago. I admit I never got it.

        • agh1

          I was lucky to get it, having heard her in Aix in 1965 and ’64 as Fiordiligi, Ilia, the Countess and Donna Anna all of which she sang very beautifully. Ariadne did however prove a little too heavy for her. I cannot recall her singing opera in England apart from one BBC concert performance of Benvenuto Cellini in 1960 which was open for anyone to attend free of charge in some out of the way former church in North London. It was probably the first performance of the opera to be given in England since its badly received ones at Covent Garden in 1853. She sang Teresa opposite Charles Craig and with Anatol Dorati conducting. The work was enirely new to me and so it was impossible for me really to judge her performance. Voice aside, she was a very beautiful woman.

  • Christian Ocier

    I’m intrigued about Jordan’s Bach--it’s been a while since I’ve heard a conductor who handles his kind of rep visiting the Bach chorale repertory. The Koopman with Sampson should be excellent. Both musicians have displayed mastery over their idiom. Thank you for the posts!

  • Satisfied

    BAYREUTH HELP! I was fortunate enough to get tickets for this season’s festival, but may not be able to attend. Generally speaking, is it very difficult to resell these tickets if I cannot use them (Parsifal, Mesitersinger, and Tristan)?

  • Susan

    Thank you so much for offering the Baker “Geist und Seele” recording. It’s been so long since i’ve heard it. really wonderful!

  • Kedem Frühling Horowitz Berger

    I’d never thought there’d be a Bach discussion here but if you’re a BAch enthusiast, please, please PLEASE give a listen to the ongoing Bach Cantata Cycle that’s been recorded in Trogen, Switzerland under Rudolf Lutz and a cracking ensemble of outstanding insturmentalist and young vocalists from the nearby Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. My life has become so much more beautiful after the discovery of this cycle. They have DVDs, they have streaming, they have CDs (expensive as hell, beautiful to behold and to listen to).

    Harnoncourt/Leonhardt is dated re vocal foces and instrumental dexterity. Koopman is aenemic (and in a different way, also Herreweghe in an impossible acoustic). Gardiner is too forced, Suzuki can be bland and there’s a cloud of sameness hanging over his cantata project.

    This Lutz guy is delightful -- inventive, lyrical, each cantata sounds different, it is a journey of rediscovery for me.
    Naturally, not all solo work is on the same level, but there are some exceptional singers involved -- the blind Gerlinde Saemann with her perfect instrument for Bach, and souldful singing. Alex Potter, Peter Harvey, Stephan MacLeod and a fine array of tenors.

    Here’s my favourite opening chorus, BWV 34, outstandingly performed. The tenor is weak in the very short rezitativ.

    Saemann is the soprano soloist in this masterpiece

    And here is the astonishing opening chorus of BWV 103, Ihr werdet weinen und heulen.