‘Nun komm!’ reviewed in Gramophone

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Richard Lawrence has reviewed our CD ‘Nun komm!’ for Gramophone.

This is an admirable recording: intelligently conceived and well performed. Both cantatas open with a chorus in the shape of a French overture: in no. 61 it’s the slow introduction that incorporates phrases of the chorale, whereas in no. 97 the singers don’t enter until the Vivace. The Erlebach piece, published in 1693, consists of a French overture followed by the usual suite of dances. The other theme of the disc is Heinrich Isaac’s ‘Innsbruck ich muss dich lassen’, heard as a vocal quartet and as instrumental fantasias by Christian Hollander and Paul Lütkeman; and, lo and behold, it’s the very tune that becomes the chorale melody at the beginning and end of ‘In allen meinen Taten’.

The Bach Players seem to be a democratic lot with nobody credited as director. Be that as it may, the dotted figures at the opening of ‘Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland’ are precisely articulated, and the tempo of the gai section is nicely judged. The pitch is about a semitone below today’s standard: Nicholas Mulroy sounds uncomfortable with the low Cs of the tenor recitative and aria but he phrases musically. Bach’s curiously short-winded last chorus sounds even more insubstantial than usual, perhaps because the ensemble doesn’t include a double bass.

The Erlebach overture follows, each movement in G minor. It ends with a fine chaconne that includes some ornate writing for the first violin. Nicolette Moonen plays brilliantly, as she does in the tenor aria of no. 97, with its roulades and double-stopping. Even if you don’t like Bach sung one-to-a-part, you can’t fail to enjoy these performances.

Gramophone, December 2010