first thing that would strike you when you put this CD on is the
stunning tempos that Cantus Cölln have chosen to record these devilishly
difficult works. Even the slower parts are taken at a faster-than-usual
pace. I would however prefer a more in-depth and meditative reading
of these inspiring works.
Nevertheless, their technical virtuosity as an ensemble is unarguable.
Choral dynamics are not lacking while intonation and ensemble imperfections
are few. The very full choral sound hints of some over-zealous engineering
that leaves me wondering if the playback is true to the original
Cantus Cölln sound. After all, Jungähnel's choice of an all-soloist
treatment of all six Motets becomes somewhat ineffectual at the
weightier parts and as a result can be rather unsatisfying.
are instances that this reading have benefited from brisker tempos.
For example, in Komm, Jesu, komm, BWV 229 at track 2, 2:33
- "Komm, Komm", the short staccatos on the word "Komm" caught my
attention immediately from the first hearing. The same treatment
is heard at Jesu meine Freude, BWV 227 on track 3, 9:46 -
"Weg mit alle".
den Herren, alle Heiden, BWV 230 also benefits from the virtuosic
treatment. Here tempos need to be rushed a bit to bring out the
full flavour of "Lobet der herrn". Though the general preference
for faster tempos speak little of any real interpretative insight
into these works, it is nonetheless pleasing to hear an actual difference
slower tempos are preferred, the full emotional impact of "So aber.."
at Track 3, 10:40 fails to come across. Any possible saving grace
is quickly destroyed at "der geist" which follows.
aside, the two sopranos Johanna Koslowsky and Maria Cristina Kiehr
have a tone quality that seasoned baroque listeners may object to.
I was left wondering why they were coloured more like counter-tenors.
It took me some time to get used to this sound and was one of the
reasons that kept me deliberating whether to purchase this disc
at the shops.
much prefer the part of the soprano to be sung by a bright chesty
soprano (in terms of sound!) or better than that, a real treble.
Koslowsky's voice, though not as thick as the countertenor Bernhard
Landauer, is still too thick and very buccal. I cannot help but
think that more head and more chest is needed. In addition, the
countertenor runs in "Ihr aber seid nicht fleischlich" is certainly
ugly. There were also instances when he stuck out badly from the
tenor and bass in this set would have been a pleasure to listen
to, if the sound engineer had not added extra bass to the recording.
The bass continuo is quite sufficient, in my opinion, to balance
the ladies at the higher end of the range. Cadences as a result
are full, but contrived. One gets tired easily of the "full-but
contrived" sound in a short while.
it is possible to find trebles with the quality of Helmut Wittek
(from Tölzer in the 1980s) is not the issue here. As an aside, the
recent commercially recorded trebles are really disappointing. Real
"German" trebles with bright, chesty and yet clear-as-a-bell voices
are needed for these Bach masterpieces - much as Bach would have
had in his church. They sing with the fiery boldness and consummate
artistry that defies belief.
is not easily upset except when Bach is performed carelessly...
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30.5.1998 © NG Yeuk Fan
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