Bach: Ein feste Burg

Sarah Wegener, David Allsopp, Thomas Hobbs, Peter Harvey SATB, Kammerchor Stuttgart, Barockorchester Stuttgart, Frieder Bernius
Carus 83.282
49:03
+ Missa in G minor, BWV235

I would like to hear Bach’s short masses recorded/performed alongside the cantata movements on which they are based (I’ve done this myself with the F major). There would certainly have been room for such an approach on this rather brief CD. In their own terms, these performances are splendid – the opening ritornello is just gorgeous (JSB is a factor in this, of course) and the star ratings reflect this.

The soloists (three of them English) are equally accomplished in some demanding music – Bach’s re-texting of the cantata arias is not always seamless. I must say that I miss the inauthentic trumpet parts from BWV 80! However, without them, the ear re-focuses from sheer sonic splendour to Bach’s astonishing contrapuntal skill which in these hands is still very much a rewarding musical experience. The booklet contains all that it should, though the English version of the main essay omits some of the interesting contextual information included in the German original.

But there will be those who would have been much happier to hear fewer performers than are on display here – a choir of 21 (7-5-5-4) and orchestra with strings 55321 – expert and impressively unanimous though these are. Conductor Frieder Bernius has been admired for several decades as ‘a pioneer of historical performance practice’. But is ‘historical performance practice’ really what he is offering? It sounds to me more like a modern performance practice using historical instruments.

David Hansell

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  • Performance
  • Recorded sound
  • Booklet notes
  • Overall presentation
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