Johann, J. Christoph & J. Michael Bach: Motets

Vox Luminis, Lionel Meunier
141:43 (2 CDs)
Ricercar RIC347

17th-century music is best kept to itself, as far as I’m concerned. The three composers here are less forceful than their famous relative, but have a mild sound that can carry the words with ease. Dates are Johann (1604-73), Johann Christoph (1642-1703) and Johann Michael (1648-1694). The organ is mostly included, whether noted or not – that seems sensible. In the past, I used to follow recordings with scores whenever possible, but I don’t want the visual interruption now, apart from looking on the few pieces that seemed inappropriate. There are 15 motets on disc 1, 18 on disc 2.

There is only one singer per part, which helps the expression: it is sensibly done, but not overdone. Dynamics, apart from echos, come mostly from within the phrase. Meunier is the leader, but also sings bass – none of the conductorial arm-waving that we get from other small ensembles. The booklet is substantial at 111 pages, allowing for English, French and German. If you haven’t got a comprehensive collection of these three composers, buy this set – and, even if you do, you may want to add it to your collection anyway!

Clifford Bartlett