Bach: L'epiphanie, Cantatas 72, 81, 155, 156

Album cover art for upc 722056240420
Label: ATMA
Catalog: ACD2 2404
Format: CD

MAUCH, MONIKA; GOTTWALD, FRANZISKA; TDANIELS, CHARLES; VANDER KAMP, HARRY; MILNES, ERIC BANDE MONTREAL BAROQUE

Except for the exquisite Sinfonia that opens No 156, none of these Epiphany cantatas is familiar fare. But with Bach cantatas, lesser-known rarely means inferior. No 72 opens with one of Bach’s infectiously joyous triple-time choruses, while No 81, in which Jesus calms the wind and the waves, is in effect an unstaged sacred opera, complete with a pair of graphic ‘storm’ arias. The highlight of the relatively brief No 155 is the imploring duet for alto and tenor accompanied by a virtuoso bassoon obbligato. Five volumes into his projected complete cantata cycle, Eric Milnes gets animated, stylistically assured playing from his Montreal band, based on a maximum of 10 strings. I didn’t care for the little rhythmic hesitations that disrupt the flow of the soprano’s polonaise aria in No 72. But in the main Milnes has a sure feel for tempo and Bachian rhetoric. Like Kuijken in his selective series for Accent, he favours a one-to-a-part approach in the choruses and chorales. With the soloists well balanced and lively in their contrapuntal interplay, No 72’s opening chorus is one of the disc’s prime pleasures.

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