Gramophone Editor's Choice -
Diapason d'or / Arte
The cantata Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe (Jesus gathered the twelve to Himself) BWV 22, holds a historic place in Bach’s work. Indeed he composed it while still in Köthen, as an audition piece for the position of Thomaskantor in Leipzig, and then conducted it on February 7th, 1723, maybe even singing the bass part himself. Famously the city council, unable to convince its preferred composers – Telemann, Graupner and two others –, decided to settle with “mediocre” Bach… The gospel of the day first announces his death and his resurrection by Christ and his disciplines. A modest orchestra: voices, strings, one oboe and continuo, but the musical content is – like in almost all of Bach’s cantatas – amongst the best he’s ever written.
For the same celebration, Bach composed a new cantata the following year, Herr Jesu Christ, wahr’ Mensch und Gott (Lord Jesus Christ, true Man and God) BWV 127. But it has almost nothing in common with the previous piece: here Bach offers a very impressive reflection on physical death. Throughout his cantatas he called for a blessed death to free himself from the vicissitudes of life on Earth, but this now reveals how much he may have feared physical death itself. The aria ”Die Seele ruht” is one of these sublime moments suspended in time, an ineffable tintinnabulum, in which the soprano and the oboe dialogue on a harrowing theme while the flutes and string pizzicatos symbolise the passing of time with incredible beauty.
Finally it’s with Die Elenden sollen essen (The miserable shall eat) BWV 75 that Bach started off his work in Leipzig, in St. Nicholas Church this time, as the cantatas were alternately performed in both churches. Probably because he wanted to start with a bang, he designed this cantata on a huge scale: fourteen numbers, divided in two parts. Of course Bach would have never been able to produce such vast and powerful partitions on a weekly basis, but there is a real substance to this Passion… and it’s with great passion that Philippe Pierlot, his Ricercar Consort and the soloists perform these masterpieces. © SM/Qobuz