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About this CD

Bach, J S

Cohen, Jonathan


Release Date:
30th December 2016

Catalogue Number:

Bach: Cantatas Nos. 54, 82 & 170 – Iestyn Davies; Arcangelo / Cohen


There can be no question that Iestyn Davies is one of today’s most accomplished counter-tenors. No other counter-tenor currently ‘sounds more warmly radiant or tonally secure’ (the Telegraph) – qualities that are very much to the fore in this delicious new Bach solo cantatas recording.

All three cantatas focus on the idea of rejecting sin and yearning for the joys of heaven. They contain some of Bach’s most sublime music, such as the first aria of BWV70 Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust: a blissful pastoral lullaby sung with warm purity and conviction by Davies, the accompaniment a veritable tapestry of gorgeous sound with oboe d’amore doubling the first violins.

BWV82 ‘Ich habe genug’ is one of Bach’s best-loved and most moving solo cantatas. As Richard Wigmore’s booklet essay for Hyperion eloquently notes, ‘the cantata’s death-saturated text tapped deep into the composer’s characteristic vein of almost voluptuously morbid inwardness’.  Originally written for bass in 1727, the cantata was arranged for soprano four years later, with the flute replacing the oboe. Around 1735 Bach made another version for alto that restored the key and scoring of the original – particularly effective where the timbre of voice and oboe complement each other in the first aria as they do here. Equally fine is the second aria, the string-accompanied lullaby Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen (Close in sleep , you weary eyes). The aria’s low tessitura proves no problem for Davies, and his vocal control in the long phrases is remarkable. One of the hallmarks of this disc is the consistent beauty of his delivery, the long legato lines subtly nuanced, the tone even throughout. Yet he also has the agility to convey the joyful impatience of the final arias of BWV82 and BWV70.

The shorter Widerstehe doch der Sünde (Stand firm against sin), BWV54 receives an equally fine performance (I especially enjoyed the colourful harpsichord and piled-up dissonances in the opening movement), and the vocal items are interleaved with exuberant sinfonias from cantatas 52 and 174.

By coincidence, French counter-tenor Philippe Jaroussky sings cantatas 82 and 170 on his recent disc of Bach and Telemann sacred cantatas with Freiburg Baroque Orchestra. His Bach has a quite different feel to it; he uses his voice (lighter in tone and more feminine than Davies’) in a more operatic, breathier and ultimately fussier fashion. The more numerous Freiburg musicians behave with the slightly blander unanimity of an orchestra, in contrast to the highly expressive approach of the Arcangelo players. It is good, but for me, the sustained, sinuous lines of Davies’ voice and more intimate soloistic approach of Arcangelo’s instrumentalists make their disc a clear winner.

Reviewed by: Anne McAlister

Media / Summary

Label's Recording Summary:

Ich habe genug is a timeless, transcendental masterpiece: a profound expression of Christian faith at the very end of life. It demands artistry of a special order, and Iestyn Davies now joins the likes of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in the work’s distinguished discography. The couplings are equally ravishing performances of two other great solo cantatas, while the two orchestral sinfonias which complete the album will prove refreshingly familiar.

Works Featured:
Disc Name:
: Bach, J S: Cantata BWV170 'Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust' :
: Bach, J S: Bach, J S: Cantata BWV170 'Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust' :
: Bach, J S: Cantata BWV82 'Ich habe genug' :
: Bach, J S: Sinfonia: Cantata BWV174 :
: Bach, J S: Cantata BWV52 'Falsche Welt, dir trau ich nicht': Sinfonia :

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