Bach: Angenehme Melodei!

Huldigungskantaten BWV 216a & 210a
Katja Stuber, Franz Vitzthum, Daniel Johannsen, Deutsche Hofmusik, Alexander Grychtolik
deutsche harmonia mundi 8-89854 10522-8

This is another pair of secular cantatas – this time homage cantatas – in a performing reconstruction by Alexander Grychtolik as a companion CD to his Ruhm und Glück, versions of BWV 36a and 66a, reviewed in EMR August 2013.

Erwählte Pleißenstadt  (BWV 216a) is more difficult to reconstruct, as although there exist some fragments of BWV 216, a wedding cantata written in 1728 from which it was parodied, and we have BWV 204.8 & 205.13 from which two arias (numbers 3 and 7) can be fully reconstructed, it is only the music of the Tenor (Apollo) and the Alto (Mercury) that form the original thread of this reconstruction.

In O angenehme Melodie  (BWV 201a), we have a more secure basis. The Soprano part survives entire, as does a print of the earliest dedicatory version. The instrumental parts of the arias and the two accompanied recitatives exist in a later parody, the wedding cantata O holder Tag  (BWV 210), so all that is missing is the BC for the secco recits 3, 5 and 9, where the reconstructed chord sequences seem entirely plausible.

This remarkable and taxing solo cantata is splendidly sung by Katya Stuber, who has a wonderful voice – clean and clear, but rich and expressive; warm and colourful, but never wobbly. This was a delight, as she has sung opera – Wagner and Debussy as well as Mozart and Handel – and I was not expecting such a stylish HIP performance. The single strings, d’amore and traverso of Deutsche Hofmusik play fluidly with a spring in their step, and this whole performance was a delight.

I’m very slightly less enthusiastic about BWV 216a. I enjoyed the original voice tessiturae with a tenor singing what in BWV 216 is given to a soprano, and these surviving parts of 216 certainly establish basic tonalities. But the secco recits are entirely new, as are the instrumental parts for two arias.

But these are personal preferences. The singing in 216a is excellent, and the performances are well served by a generous acoustic and excellent recordings. Both cantatas are recorded in this version for the first time, and should be warmly welcomed – indeed enthusiastically in the case of Katja Stuber’s 210a.

David Stancliffe