Established 27 years ago, the German early-music ensemble Cantus Colln has achieved a prominent position among European baroque specialist groups, with a substantial and highly regarded discography to its credit. Given its durable renown, it was surprising that this all-Bach programme, consisting of three church cantatas and a couple of motets performed under Cantus's founder-director,
When sung unaccompanied, the motets are among the most challenging of Bach's choral works, and even with the safety net of instrumental accompaniment they remain seriously demanding. Singing one voice to a part, Cantus Colln performed Lobet den Herrn and the larger Jesu, meine Freude with single strings and a chamber organ doubling the vocal lines.
The result, while finely shaped, was not always impeccably tidy. Yet while other groups might deliver performances with cleaner edges and a more dynamic sense of forward drive, what Junghanel and his vocalists offered was a warmth and humanity that more brilliant readings sometimes lack.
With real independent parts to perform, the instrumentalists came into their own in the cantatas.
Christ lag in Todesbanden, too, was done with considerable spirit, but it was in the unusual Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee, with its prayer for protection against the Turks and the pope, that the definition of both vocalists and players was at its most consistent. Individual voices might be on the mature side these days, but the homogenous blend the group has always aimed at was regularly realised.
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