Andreas Scholl: "Bach Cantatas"
Kammerorchester Basel, Schröder. Texts and translations. Decca 478 2733
Two Bach cantatas, BWV 82 ("Ich habe genug") and BWV 169 ("Gott soll allein mein Herze haben"), form the centerpiece of this showcase for countertenor Andreas Scholl. Scholl's voice is as gentle, otherworldly and graceful as ever, but in cantata BWV 82, he occasionally sinks under the orchestra, most notably in the aria "Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen." This may be due to the fact that the cantata was originally written for a bass, although it could be an interpretive choice; the aria is about sinking into slumber. (Still, it would be nice to hear him.) Scholl's best moment is the aria "Ich freue mich auf meinen Tod," in which his anticipation of death is palpable and immediate. Here, he mines additional colors, including a touch of chest voice, which he shuns elsewhere. The difference in his delivery is striking, and the orchestra responds in kind. The higher-lying cantata BWV 169 is a more comfortable fit, and the title aria, while a bit static dramatically, allows a sweeter sound simply because of the tessitura. The lyrical phrases of the aria "Stirb in mir" allow Scholl to demonstrate his gift for building long notes and spinning out gently undulating lines across treacherous intervals.
Scholl is joined by soprano Junko Takamaya, tenor Michael Feyfar and bass Raitis Grigalis in the closing chorale, "Du süsse Liebe." The quartet blends well, while at the same time, the listener can parse each moving line separately. Unfortunately, the chorale is marred by uncertain leadership; everyone seems to be waiting for someone else to start the phrase. Scholl delivers the aria "Bekennen will ich seinen Namen" (BWV 200) delicately, while his "Der Schluss ist schon gemacht," from cantata BWV 161, becomes more spirited halfway through. Cantata BWV 53, "Schlage doch, gewünschte Stunde" — a single aria most likely penned by Bach's contemporary Georg Melchior Hoffmann — makes an unusual and charming diversion with its pealing bell duet sounding an obbligato. In the accompanying notes, Scholl writes of his abiding admiration for Bach, whose music he first experienced as a boy chorister. His performance often inclines toward extreme reverence; as a result, his singing, while always sensitive, sometimes lacks differentiation. Similarly, Julia Schröder and the Kammerorchester Basel set a level of expression from which they rarely deviate, making the entire listening experience more meditational than inspirational.
JOANNE SYDNEY LESSNER