J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

Cantatas, Volume 2

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Masaaki Suzuki
Accompaniment/Orchestra:Bach Collegium Japan
Soloists:Midori Suzuki, soprano (bwv 71, bwv 131)
Aki Yanagisawa, soprano (bwv 106)
Yoshikazu Mera, counter-tenor
Gerd Turk, tenor (bass on BWV 106 No.IIIb)
Peter Kooy, bass
Individual Works:Gott ist mein König, BWV71
Aus der Tiefe rufe ich, Herr, zu Dir, BWV131
Gottes Zeit (Actus Tragicus), BWV106
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:Bis
Catalog Number:CD-781
Year Released/Recorded:1995
Total Playing Time:62'35
Comments:Gunnar Engan said:

This is the second recording of a cantata series that is intended to be complete. By present (april 97) four CD's have been issued. I am strongly recomending them all. They are among the very best I have ever heard of Bach cantatas. If Suzuki and his Bach Collegium is following the same line of supreme quality througout the forthcoming recordings, I will be looking forward to every new issue in this series. I will not dwell on the individual works, because they are all equally superb, as are the soloist and all the rest.

Lawrence Schenbeck said:

This is the best combination of warmly expressive singing and playing with early-music conventions (e.g., old instruments, small groups, male alto) that I've ever heard. They avoid both extremes: mannered (Harnoncourt) or fast-but-dry (Gardiner). Do give them a try! I'm going to get the whole set.

Ryan Michero said:


We lovers of Bach's sacred cantatas live in a very exciting time. Not only are there two "complete" recorded sets of the cantatas already finished (by Rilling on modern instruments and by Harnoncourt and Leonhardt on period instruments), but there are two more sets in progress (Koopman and Suzuki) and another coming soon (Gardiner), not to mention excellent single volumes (by Herreweghe, Juergens, and Werner, to name a few) and various "incomplete" sets (Richter) already on the market. All of these recordings offer fascinating perspectives on the inexhaustible riches of Bach's cantatas. That being said, the ongoing cantata series being recorded by Masaaki Suzuki leading the Bach Collegium Japan is my favorite; in fact, I don't hesitate to say these are most satisfying sacred cantata recordings I have ever heard.

Volume 2

If Volume 1 was a bit tentative, Volume 2 is where Suzuki and the BCJ really hit their stride. It includes great performances of two "favorite" cantatas (BWV 106 and 131, the latter a particular favorite of Suzuki) and one lesser-known piece (BWV 71). This is an essential volume!

BWV 71 "Gott is mein Koenig"
Suzuki and company turn in a rousing rendition of this celebratory early Weimar cantata. While the choral singing is fine, the soloists (Suzuki, Mera, Tuerk, and Kooij) steal the show in their "soli" sections, blending their voices beautifully. Two aria performances deserve special mention: the lovely bass aria with great singing by Kooij and chill-inducing wind playing, and the extrovert alto aria which features fine period trumpeting. Suzuki conducts with brilliance and pomp in the big outer movements and with sensitivity in the arias and the quiet, strange "turtle dove" chorus.

BWV 131 "Aus der Tiefe rufe ich, Herr, zu dir"
An inspired performance. The Adagio section of the opening choral Sinfonia is gorgeously sung and played, with outstanding oboe playing by Marcel Ponselle. I'm listening to it now through my terrible computer speakers, and it still gives me chills! When the Vivace section begins on the words "Herr, hoere meine Stimme", Suzuki shows his talent at conducting fugues. He is helped by clear, alert choral singing. A great first movement! Kooij and Midori Suzuki sing the following aria with chorale beautifully, and Ponseele again impresses with his oboe playing. The central choral movement is relaxed and gentle, with a lovely finish. The tenor aria with alto chorale is also nicely sung, capturing the hope in the text. And never underestimate the importance of a great continuo section: the excellent playing of the cello (Hidemi Suzuki) and organ are crucial to the success of this movement. Suzuki's handling of tempo and dynamics changes in the final chorus are very effective, and the choir sounds amazing. A beautifully shaped chromatic double-fugue brings the work to an exciting close.

BWV 106 "Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit"
Another inspired performance! The opening Sonatina is taken slower than normal, but I find it incredibly moving. This is as fine an evocation of heavenly peace as I have ever heard. The recorders and violas da gamba sound simply beautiful together (this is the early Weimar version, sans oboes). Suzuki brings drama to the following multi-sectioned movement, making perfect sense of the changes in text and music. There is lovely singing and playing throughout, and the trailing off of the soprano at the end is handled beautifully. Aki Yanagisawa's young, boyish voice is perfect for the final cries of "Ja, komm, Herr Jesu". The ending nearly stops my heart whenever I hear it. The third movement is hardly less involving. Mera deserves special mention for his wonderful singing in the section beginning "In deine Haende". The final chorus begins peacefully with a beautiful Bachian melody on the recorders. The choir, in open harmony, sounds delectably serene. A happily-sung fugue brings the work to a bright,
hopeful end.

Gustavo Gómez Sosa said:

Excellent! One of my favourite Bach Cd's. Both soloists and vocal-orchestral ensemble sing and play with charm and original style, specially Gerd T³rk on BWV 106. Counter-tenor Yoshikazu Mera demonstrates he is one of the best Baroque music performers on BWV 71 Aria 'Durch Mõchtige Kraft'. I think this series is the one of the best of Bach's Cantatas and may surely be a big challenger for the Leonhardt-Harnoncourt, Rilling and Koopman series. Not to be missed.

Acknowledgements:Thank you to the following for submitting this recording and for your comments:
  • Gunnar Engan
  • Lawrence Schenbeck
  • Ryan Michero
  • Gustavo Gómez Sosa
Date First Submitted:04/16/1997