Carolyn Sampson Bach Cantatas for sopranoJohann Sebastian Bach

Cantatas for soprano

Carolyn Sampson, soprano; Andreas Wolf, bass-baritone

Freiburger Barockorchester

Petra Müllejans, conductor

Harmonia Mundi, 2017

The recording Johann Sebastian Bach. Cantatas for soprano offers the performance of three cantatas written by the great Baroque composer before his prolific Leipzig years and dating to the previous period, when he was living in Weimer. The three cantatas are Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten (BWV 202), a wedding cantata survived in a copy of the original manuscript dated 1730; Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn (BWV152), composed for a performance on 30 December 1714 and connected to Bach’s duties as Konzertmeister of the Weimer Hofkapelle; and finally Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut (BWV 199), written on a text by the Darmstadt court librarian Georg Christian Lehms in 1714.

The performance of the three cantatas is quite good. Carolyn Sampson sings well, her voice is a little shrill but it is overall clear and has a luminous timbre, her agility is good, and in certain passages (especially in the two arias Wenn die Frühlingslüfte streichen and Sich üben im Lieben from the cantata Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten) she finds the most delightful accents – after all, she is singing about love here. Her voice expresses well also more contrite feelings and the long aria Tief gebückt und voller Reue from Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut conveys a sense of contrition. Overall, Sampson’s performance is fine.

The same can be said of bass-baritone Andreas Wolff. He sings only the cantata Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn, but his arias are long and numerous enough to appreciate the softness of his voice, his flawless agility and his good expressivity.

The Freiburger Barockorchester and Petra Müllejans are wonderful. They are remarkable in particular for the smoothness with which they perform Bach’s cantatas, surrounding the singers with an atmosphere that is, depending on the circumstances, sweet and profane (the first cantata), mystical and religious (the second) and moving (the third).

Cantatas for soprano is really a fine recording – perhaps not the best among Bach’s recordings, but it is a valuable addition and it is worth to be listened to rediscover some of his earliest cantatas performed in a really effective way.