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Cantata Organization Mania

from Saturday, May15th of the year2010.

How many Bach cantata recordings do you guys own? Because I own a TON, and I’ve finally gotten it all together digitally to figure out what’s going on. I have a lot of Ton Koopman, another ton of Masaaki Suzuki, Gardiner, it’s really nuts. I’ve been listening to them all day, and there are some that always kill me how beautiful they are. Check out Robin Blaze singing this weirdo chromatic one (Wie Jammern Mich Doch Die Verkehrten Herzen)

[audio:10 Vergnugte Ruh.mp3]
Bach Vergnugte Ruh! Beliebte Seelenlust
Masaaki Suzuki, conductor
Bach Collegium Japan

Right? So good. What I would really love, though, is for somebody knowledgeable about Bach to take me through a year or two with the cantatas, presenting them in liturgically appropriate order, etc., and digging out the best recordings. My natural instinct is to hoard recordings but I’m scared that something like this aria would fall through the cracks. Any recommendations for a book?

One thing about touring that always happens is that we all get obsessed with a song and are perpetually running around singing it. Unfortunately, this trip this was the winner:

[audio:Smell Yo Boys.mp3]

…which as far as I can tell is the infamous “Smell Yo Dick” song but subjected to the Junior Boys treatment; the whole thing is so good, and I had forgotten how beautiful the vocal inflection is “” landing on an appoggiatura is a time-tested trick for plaintive content; what works even better here is that it leans into a suspended note, sort of, so the whole thing becomes quite melancholic.

The phrase iterations:

It reminds me, weirdly, of one of my favorite phrases in opera, which is Adams’s setting of “Sea-Level” about a minute into this aria from The Death of Klinghoffer.

John Adams
Aria of the Falling Body (Gymnopédie) from The Death of Klinghoffer
Kent Nagano / Lyon

Deelish, right? Dropping a ninth, too, is a really awesome thing and it sits really well in this voice.

I am happily stuck in Iceland. I had to cancel a show in Valencia, which was hideously agonizing “” the airports were intermittently shutting down in Iceland, and I was scared that if I left, I would never get back! There is a certain glamor to having one’s motions restricted by something as unpredictable as a Volcano; the charts and graphs of the predicted plume are deliciously old-fashioned and can be found here. I’ve been hitting refresh constantly.


  • Christoph Wolff is always good on Bach, as I’m sure you know, and the Wolff and Koopman edited ‘The World of the Bach Cantatas’ is no exception.

    All the best x

  • I’m a Koopman fanatic when it comes to the Bach cantatas, myself. But I also wouldn’t be without Lorraine Hunt Lieberson’s CD of cantatas 82 and 99, even though it’s not part of a larger set.

  • ABSOLUTELY wonderful recording that Christopher suggests.I have it both at home and in the studio for you to hear if you don’t have it.

  • Dürr is expensive but worth it:

    These websites are also worth exploring:

    And don’t miss this:

  • didn’t Gardiner record all of the cantatas in lithurgical order with his Monteverdi Choir in concerts all over the world during the and release them on their SDG label? I think he wanted to do it for DG originally, but they pulled out and he decided to set up his own label

  • Dermoncourt’s “Tout Bach” isn’t bad. He actually knows a lot.

  • Thanks for the interview in Uppsala. But most of all thanks for a really great concert. If you want to hear how the interview turned out, it’s right here:

  • charles sullivan
    May 18th, 2010 at 10:38 am

    thank you, anders. nico gave a hoot of an interview.

  • matthew maclellan
    May 18th, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    now i’m wishing i had all the cantatas, period – however, i have all the secular cantatas with peter schreier and while they’re not the greatest they are certainly listenable. arleen auger is the soloist on some of them, who is always pleasing to listen to (in my opinion)

  • Hey Nico – see you in a few weeks….Call Peter Watchorn for all matters Bach – he IS the living encyclopedia 617-354-5821!!!

  • nico! if you want to see how a bach cantata should be done, watch this magic documentry! in my opinion, bach + monteverdi choir in gardiner’s hands = near perfection…

  • Yes! M’Lord you express it. I’ve got a lot of Gardiner, but the sheer volume of his recorded works never ceases to overwhelm me (like Savall, do these cats ever sleep?). Can’t deal. I wish I knew somebody who had them all. I need a Bach tour guide myself. Love Koopman. Ever seen him talk? Hilarious/genius. Observe at 7:00/9:12:

    great documentary btw, if you haven’t seen it already, replete with sorely missed late 90s fashions for your nostalgic enjoyment.

    Check out Monica Huggett, our local duchess of the Portland Baroque.

    Have you read Albert Schweitzer’s book on Bach? If not, i suggest picking it up. i’m reading it right now and it’s great. not exactly a discographic kind of book though. hilliard ensemble’s recordings of the motets and chorales (morimur) are amazing.

    this probably isn’t helping. thanks for a great post though. made me day.

  • you should write a schenkerian(ish) analysis of “Smell Yo Dick.” published.

  • Nico –

    From what I have read about your bio you were a stone’s throw from hearing the Bach Cantatas done according to the liturgical year done as Bach and his contemporaries would have done it. ick Erickson, cantor at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church at West 65th Street and CPW offers performances of the Bach cantatas in accordance to the liturgical year at 5 pm Vespers services. Rick programs organ works of Bach contemporaries or predecessors to offer a historical context and Tobin provides excellent English translations of the German text. Interspersed are special performances – last year he did the St Mathew’s Passion AND all of the Bach Motets. He has a great stable of singers and a good period performance orchestra. If you are in NYC this summer – they will be presenting end of July two cantatas.

    Another interesting fact about Bach’s cantatas – they were performed along with a service and a 1 hour sermon. Therefore the length of the bach’s cantatas were rather extraordinary in his time. A more typical length and style of cantatas hear by Bach’s parishioners would be the ones by Kuhnau and Graupner and minor baroque composers.

    As for recordings I have found that for consistency in quality I prefer the Herreweghe and then the Suzuki or Gardiner.

    So if you are interested in such an exploration Rick Erickson from Holy Trinity Lutheran Church is an excellent person to meet and get to know – also he does enjoy performing new liturgical works once in awhile for his 11 am masses and other services. he was kind enough to have a very short Kyrie of mine performed at two services this past March.

  • Steven, I agree with you about Gardiner’s Bach, and I’m also extremely keen on his Beethoven, Berlioz, and Brahms. I often feel when listening to Gardiner’s performances that I’m hearing the work for the first time.

  • I hope your librettist’s grammar is up to snuff! 😉