German Cantatas with solo violin

Nahuel Di Pierro, Johannes Pramsohler, Andrea Hill, Jorge Navarro Colorado, Christopher Purves, Ensemble Diderot
77:40
Audax ADX 13715

This programme of cantatas in Latin and German featuring parts for obbligato virtuoso violin opens and closes with the music of Heinrich Biber and visits the output of Johann Christoph Bach (first cousin of J. S. Bach), Nicholas Bruhns, Daniel Eberlin and Johann Pachelbel in the course of a varied and intriguing selection of works. Although I am sure I will have heard cantatas with obbligato violin parts before, I was unaware that there is a mini-genre in German music. The opening Biber piece is an interesting case in point as the showy violin part, possibly written by Biber for himself to play, seems to force the voice into an almost subservient role, reduced in its virtuosity by comparison with, for example, the showy vocal solos in Biber’s settings of the Mass. In the music by Johann Christoph Bach, the voice and violin share the limelight to a much greater extent, and it is always good to hear some fine original music by Pachelbel as a tonic to the ubiquitous Canon, where once again the solo violin and the voice take it in turns to shine. Andrea Hill, who sings the soprano part in the Pachelbel as well as the contralto part in Bach’s Ach dass ich Wassers genug hätte, sounds a little uncomfortable in the upper end of the soprano range, or perhaps she is just slightly wrong-footed by Pachelbel’s quirky vocal lines. This attractive programme, shining a spotlight on an unexpected genre of music, culminates in an impressive duet cantata for two basses and obbligato violin, which like most of the rest of the fine repertoire performed here would rarely have seen the light of day.

D. James Ross

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