Diapason d'or -
Coup de coeur de l'Académie Charles Cros -
4 étoiles Classica -
This collection of oddities from Bach's family and circle is capped by a real curiosity: the Quodlibet, BWV 524, of J.S. Bach himself. This work, incompletely preserved, apparently captures something of what went on when the Bach clan, numerous indeed, held one of their yearly parties. Essentially they seem to have improvised couplets of humorous nonsense poetry, combining German, Latin, and occasionally bits of what seems to have been the dialect of Bach's native Thuringia region. Perhaps music too was part of this improvisation; it's not clear exactly what Bach contributed to what you hear here, but it would seem that he fit the poetry into elaborated versions of the music the group would have made up on the spot. The result is a nearly indescribable series of satires, musical puns, dirty jokes, and more, all of which may be entirely unlike the solemnly glorious Bach you know and love, but which nevertheless sheds light on his peculiar genius. The Quodlibet is not often recorded, but true Bach enthusiasts ought to hear it, and the ensemble Clematis overcomes a rather delicate one-voice-part sound to get into the lusty spirit of the thing. The Quodlibet is paired with three other unusual works: the Bach wedding cantata Der Herr denket an uns, BWV 196, and two cantatas based on the Bible's highly sexual meeting point of sacred and secular, the Song of Solomon. The cantata Mein Freund ist mein of Georg Böhm, strikingly (one might say obsessively) repeating the title phrase at the beginning of each stanza, is one of the few surviving vocal works of this North German composer best known as one of J.S. Bach's predecessors in organ composition. Apparently meant for liturgical use, it is cut from the same cloth as Johann Christoph Bach's secular Meine Freundin, du bist schön. This Bach was not J.S. Bach's son but his first cousin once removed, a generation older. Nobody is going to put this on a list of essential Bach purchases, but there are many attractions, not least the delicately vibrato-shy singing of soprano Mariana Flores.