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I will award no prize to anyone detecting appearances of the Passion Chorale, that leitmotif of Bach's religious convictions; but there are manifold other delights to be savoured in these four works. The widow's son, it seems, was probably happier dead than alive. Hence the chorus's willingness to give up the ghost in the penultimate number of 161.

Listen -- Wenn es meines Gottes Wille (Komm, du süße Todesstunde BWV 161)
(track 22, 0:00-0:54) © 2008 harmonia mundi

The same sentiment dominates the tenor aria in No 95, when pizzicato strings illustrate the tolling of the soloist's last hour.

Listen -- Ach, schlage doch bald, selge Stunde (Christus, der ist mein Leben BWV 95)
(track 15, 0:00-1:26) © 2008 harmonia mundi

Nor is there any escape from the blessedness of death and consequent resurrection in No 27. The opening chorale is interspersed with recitatives from the three upper voices, all convinced they must prepare for the end.

Listen -- Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende? (BWV 27)
(track 1, 0:37-1:27) © 2008 harmonia mundi

The alto aria concurs with the prevailing mood, but in instrumental colouring by organ and oboe da caccia that will probably reconcile many to remaining in this world a while.

Listen -- Willkommen! will ich sagen (Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende? BWV 27)
(track 3, 0:00-1:06) © 2008 harmonia mundi

No 84 is altogether more cheerful, and I fully share in the simple good sense of the second aria: 'I eat my meagre bread with joy, / And do not begrudge my neighbour his.' This team under Philippe Herreweghe has been busy with Bach for many a moon. Its 'period instruments', therefore, have established a performance norm way beyond any suspicion of quaintness. The Collegium Vocale of Ghent is robust and sensitive as required, and the soloists revel in Bach's testing and essentially orchestral conception of their part.

Copyright © 4 June 2008 Robert Anderson, Cairo, Egypt


Bach: Christus, der ist mein Leben

HMC 901969 Stereo NEW RELEASE 62'38" 2008 harmonia mundi sa

Dorothee Mields, soprano; Matthew White, alto; Hans Jörg Mammel, tenor; Thomas Bauer, bass; Collegium Vocale Gent; Philippe Herreweghe, director

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750): Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende, BWV 27; Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke, BWV 84; Christus, der ist mein Leben, BWV 95; Komm, du süße Todesstunde, BWV 161


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