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Bach - Cantatas Volume 55

Bach - Cantatas Volume 55


Bach, J S:

Cantata BWV69 'Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele'

Cantata BWV30 'Freue dich, erlöste Schar'

Cantata BWV191 'Gloria in excelsis Deo'


18 years and 55 discs later, a great adventure is brought to a close. The chronological approach adopted by Suzuki means that the three works included here are the last extant cantatas by Bach’s hand.

This series has been a landmark recording project for BIS and is released to coincide with the label's 40th anniversary.

Throughout the series, individual volumes have regularly picked up ‘choice’ awards from the major music magazines as well as numerous appearances in the UK classical chart.

“All the qualities that have made this one of the most important series of the past two decades are here, as they have been in the previous 54 volumes...[Gloria in excelsis Deo's] positioning as the final work on the final disc is apposite: the concluding chorus is a splendidly grand one to celebrate the culmination of this endeavour.” MusicWeb International, 8th November 2013

“There's a striking transparency in even the densest of counterpoint...Over 18 years Suzuki seems to have subtly changed his relationship with Bach, from a reverential approach to confident familiarity. The final Cantata of this complete series is uncannily apt: 'Gloria in Excelsis' indeed!” BBC Music Magazine, December 2013 *****

“This final volume highlights the maturing sense..of Bach Collegium Japan's growing stature and confidence to break free of generic convention towards even greater interpretative character...The best is as good as anyone anywhere” Gramophone Magazine, December 2013

“Masaaki and his performers seem to live and breathe this music and there is so much joy and immediacy in their music-making...It is simply outstanding playing, virtually faultless, and threatening on occasion to eclipse the singers, who are equally hard to fault!” Chris O'Reilly, Presto Classical, 11th November 2013

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - December 2013

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Bach - Cantatas Volume 54

Bach - Cantatas Volume 54


Bach, J S:

Cantata BWV100 'Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan'

Cantata BWV14 'Wär Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit'

Cantata BWV197 'Gott ist unsre Zuversicht'

Cantata BWV197a 'Gott ist unsre Zuversicht' (fragment)


As the penultimate volume in this acclaimed cycle it is a sobering thought that as many as a hundred of Bach's church cantatas may have been lost if it were not for the efforts of artists such as the BCJ and Masaaki Suzuki.

The fragment Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe, was apparently intended for Christmas Day of 1728. Bach reused parts of the work in the large-scale wedding cantata Gott ist unsre Zuversicht. This has made it possible to reconstruct the missing parts and allows for interesting comparisons between the two versions.

The other two works were both composed around 1735, and give rich evidence of Bach's versatility in terms of style.

“Suzuki and Bach Collegium Japan stamp their unmistakable trademark of concentrated corporate luminosity here...This is another strong release as we approach the finishing line.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2013

“Suzuki balances detail sensitively, helped by the SACD sound...Hana Blažíková duets exuberantly with trumpet in her aria...this is a superb disc, Suzuki at one with Bach - and both at their best.” BBC Music Magazine, November 2013 *****

BBC Music Magazine

Choral & Song Choice - November 2013

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Bach - Secular Cantatas III

Bach - Secular Cantatas III


Bach, J S:

Cantata BWV173a 'Durchlauchtster Leopold'

Cantata BWV202 'Weichet Nur, betrübte Schatten' (Wedding Cantata)

Cantata BWV36c 'Schwingt freudig euch empor'

Quodlibet, BWV524


Joanne Lunn (soprano), Hiroya Aoki (counter-tenor), Makoto Sakurada (tenor) & Roderick Williams (baritone)

Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki

Although two of the works on this disc were composed for weddings, they are completely different in character. Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten is a charming and gracious garland of recitatives and arias for soprano solo in which Spring, Flora, Apollo and Amor are all invoked in a blessing of the newly wedded couple and their union. The Quodlibet (Latin for ‘what pleases’) on the other hand, is an altogether unceremonious composition which was probably intended for a private function in Bach’s own circle or family. All we have is a fragment of the work – in Bach’s own hand – and the beginning and ending of the piece, including the title page, are missing. It is therefore not even certain that it is Bach’s own work, but may have been a collaboration between several of the wedding guests. Compositions of this kind belong to a tradition which combines quotations from songs, toasts, market traders’ calls, proverbs and puns, and were especially popular at weddings – where they frequently got out of hand! The third disc in Bach Collegium Japan’s series of secular cantatas also includes a birthday cantata composed in the honour of Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen, Bach’s employer during years 1717–23. Durchlauchtster Leopold (‘Most illustrious Leopold’) celebrates the ‘propitious day’ while extolling the ruler’s ‘excellent attributes’ and ‘princely renown’. Two duets in minuet form lend the work the character of a courtly serenade, which didn’t stop Bach from reusing it, with a new text, as a church cantata a few years later. The name of the recipient of Schwingt freudig euch empor, another congratulatory cantata, is no longer known, but the text tells us that he was a teacher of high standing and of an advanced age. Once again Bach, who must have been attached to the work, reused it as a church cantata, but also, with the new title Steigt freudig in die Luft, as a birthday tribute to Charlotte Friederike of Anhalt-Köthen, the wife of Prince Leopold.

“I've never heard Suzuki and the Bach Collegium having so much fun...conjuring up all the merriment of slightly inebriated music-making (complete with plenty of sound effects). This is undoubtedly the most convincing and enjoyable performance of the Quodlibet, BVW524 I've heard” International Record Review, September 2013

“As ever, Suzuki and colleagues are excellent, their collective experience as Bach interpreters enabling them to gel as one. You feel you are ever safe in their hands; but if you think that simply means no surprises, listen to them cut loose in the lusty Wedding Quodlibet” Gramophone Magazine, September 2013

“Suzuki neither deserts seriousness for levity, nor makes something fey or whimsical of this somewhat lighter form of Bach's writing...The blend between sensitive instrumental playing and thoughtful yet never self-important singing is one of the strengths of these performances.” MusicWeb International, 10th September 2013

“Suzuki and his singers are at ease with this carefree Bach, introducing the Quodlibet with background babble, and singing with exaggerated nasal accents...[Lunn's] lyrical, sustained aria in BWV36c is glorious. Two further high points in BWV36c are a rustic bass dance-aria and the admirable oboes d'amore and strings of the opening choral movement.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2013 ****

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Bach - Cantatas Volume 52

Bach - Cantatas Volume 52


Bach, J S:

Cantata BWV140 'Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme'

Cantata BWV112 'Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt'

Cantata BWV29 'Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir'


In Volume 52 of his monumental sacred cantatas project, Masaaki Suzuki includes one of J.S. Bach’s best-loved cantatas of all, Wachet auf ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140.

The famous chorale is joined by a couple of the most beautiful love duets in the history of music, here sung by the soprano Hana Blažíková and bass Peter Kooij.

Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt (‘the Lord is my faithful shepherd’) follows. Psalm 23 provides the text for all five movements.

Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir was composed for a church service celebrating the inauguration of a new city council – a ‘Ratswahl cantata’ – in which Bach shows off his capabilities as a composer. The first chorus is a reworking of material which Bach would return to in his Mass in B minor.

This startling recording project now nears its conclusion with three final volumes left to be released.

“BWV112 is universally outstanding. Suzuki draws attention to the strongly directed bass-lines of the chorus, the bucolic effervescence of 'Zum reinen Wasser' - delectably delivered by Robin Blaze - and the carefree, generous coloratura of the wonderfully etched duet...this is a finely characterised reading, celebrating the older Bach in a happy place.” Gramophone Magazine, March 2013

“[BWV112] is well worth exploring, especially for Robin Blaze's liquid countertenor...Hana Blazikova and Peter Kooij's first duetto might sound distinctly lacking in impatience for the coming of the Saviour, but happily their second is ecstatic and full of life.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2013 ****

“The acoustic is warm, draws no attention to itself; and the balance of solo singers, solo instrumentalists and ensemble is excellent.” MusicWeb International, April 2013

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Bach - Cantatas Volume 51

Bach - Cantatas Volume 51


Bach, J S:

Cantata BWV195 'Dem Gerechten muss das Licht'

Cantata BWV192 'Nun danket alle Gott'

Cantata BWV157 'Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn'

Cantata BWV120a 'Herr Gott, Beherrscher aller Dinge'


Bach Collegium Japan and Masaaki Suzuki return to their cantatas cycle with four cantatas composed for specific events.

These sacred occasional pieces are independent works and did not form part of his cantata cycles for the Sundays and feast days of the church year. Two of cantatas (BWV 195 and BWV 120a) were intended for wedding ceremonies, and one for a funeral (Ich lasse dich nicht… BWV 157), but the setting for the fourth piece, Nun danket alle Gott, BWV 192, is unknown.

The cycle of cantatas initiated by Masaaki Suzuki and Bach Collegium Japan in 1995 is nearing completion, with four volumes to come. Volume 50 was acclaimed by reviewers who praised the continued high quality of interpretation and performance.

“Even by the standards of Suzuki's continuing cantata series...this is an outstanding release...The duets of BWV 192 and 157 are deftly done, while the dense and complex choruses of BWV 195 are utterly stunning.” The Observer, 14th October 2012

“[BWV 157] contrives a ravishing foil to all the nuptial exuberance. Its tenor aria is elegantly turned by Christoph Genz...Suzuki's customary transparent springiness, sensitivity and almost feline gracefulness ensure a trousseau of sophisticated delights.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2012 ****

“Suzuki accords these works the same level of respect as Bach did, consistently striking the right balance between either joyous celebration or sober reflection and a controlled dignity proper to the occasions they adorned. His choir and orchestra perform lovingly as ever, phrasing with profond taste and intelligence, and benefitting from sound and balance judged to perfection.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2013

“Suzuki and his well-honed forces lavish at least as much loving attention on them as usual...Fluently stylish and idiomatic, the performers live and breathe Bach's music with as much immediacy as if it had been composed yesterday...one of the very best and most joyful in the series so far.” bbc.co.uk, 28th January 2013

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Bach - Secular Cantatas II

Bach - Secular Cantatas II


Bach, J S:

Cantata BWV208 'Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd!'

Sophie Junker (soprano I), Joanne Lunn (soprano II), Makoto Sakurada (tenor) & Roderick Williams (baritone)

Sinfonia in F major, BWV1046a

Cantata BWV134a 'Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht'

Damien Guillon (alto), Makoto Sakurada (tenor)


Bach Collegium Japan and Masaaki Suzuki present their long-awaited second volume of secular cantatas by J.S. Bach.

The “Hunt Cantata”, composed in 1713, is the oldest of his secular cantatas. The libretto includes a dramatic plot in which four divinities from ancient mythology appear.

Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht was intended for the 1719 New Year celebrations in Köthen. The cantata is set as a dialogue between Time (tenor) and Divine Providence (alto), who in the final movement are joined by a chorus wishing ‘glückseligen Zeiten’ (‘joyous times’)

“Sophie Junker is a personable Diana to tenor Makoto Sakurada's youthfully lyrical Endymion. Best of all if baritone Roderick Williams's Pan who renders the outrageous toadying distinctly palatable. Suzuki shapes everything with his trademark light touch, if he's sometimes inclined to under-characterise the drama.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2012 ****

“brilliantly caught, from the casting of the four characters to the expectional continuo work, led by Suzuki himself. Makoto Sakurada (as Endymion) conveys the ensnaring potential of love with friendly caution, while Pan (the ever-communicative Roderick Williams) delivers the first feel-good excursion in celebrating our Prince as Pan of his country.” Gramophone Magazine, Awards Issue 2012

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Bach - Cantatas Volume 50

Bach - Cantatas Volume 50


Bach, J S:

Cantata BWV149 'Man singet mit Freuden vom Sieg'

Cantata BWV145 'Ich lebe, mein Herze, zu deinem Ergötzen'

Cantata BWV174 'Ich liebe den Höchsten von ganzem Gemüte'

Cantata BWV49 'Ich geh und suche mit Verlangen'


On the 50th volume of Masaaki Suzuki’s traversal of J.S. Bach’s cantatas features works composed by Bach in collaboration with the Leipzig poet Picander (Christian Friedrich Henrici).

Three of the works on the disc, along with six others, are all that remain of his cantatas written in 1729.

The cantatas here featured generally make sparing use of the choir, but centre on two arias, linked by one or two recitatives, and a final chorale. In addition, the surviving works contain several examples of parody and reuse of earlier instrumental movements as introductions: The opening Sinfonia of BWV 174, uses the first movement of his Third Brandenburg Concerto.

The volume features soprano Hana Blažíková, alongside three other familiar soloists of the series: Robin Blaze (counter-tenor), Gerd Türk (tenor) and Peter Kooij (bass).

Recent releases from the series have received critical acclaim: in International Record Review, where Volume 48 was described as demonstrating ‘the ever-rising standard, by now quite stratospheric, of Suzuki and his choir and orchestra in this massive recording project.’

“the final duet-cum-chorale [of BWV49] is irresistable, with its alluring buoyancy heightened by Suzuki's natural, unforced direction...Robin Blaze is on particularly fine form...Suzuki never courts the visceral edge of John Eliot Gardiner, but he has a flawless integrity, the glorious SACD sound adding a halo of its own.” BBC Music Magazine, April 2012 *****

“Hana Blazikova delivers a clarion brightness...very much in the elegant Collegium Bach Japan vein: luminosity and purity of sentiment prevailing above an overlaid or projected personality...rugged fervour and brilliance spring off the page here. Another memorable release.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2012

“Blazikova hardly needs any help from a microphone - the ringing purity of her tone audibly cuts through the choral texture and her solos glint with conentrated tone. She's perhaps too white and glassy for some, but I love it, and she always avoids that glacial dispassion to which some other ultra-focused sopranos succumb...As always, Suzuki fields a strong solo team....Robin Blaze brings his usual elegance and instinctive phrasing” International Record Review, March 2012

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Bach - Cantatas Volume 49

Bach - Cantatas Volume 49


Bach, J S:

Cantata BWV188 'Ich habe meine Zuversicht'

Cantata BWV156 'Ich steh mit einem Fuß im Grabe'

Cantata BWV159 'Sehet, wir gehn hinauf gen Jerusalem'

Cantata BWV171 'Gott, wie dein Name, so ist auch dein Ruhm'


Rachel Nicholls (soprano), Robin Blaze (counter-tenor), Gerd Türk (tenor) & Peter Kooij (bass)

Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki

After 15 years since Masaaki Suzuki and Bach Collegium Japan began recording all of Bach’s church cantatas, this huge project enters the final stretch with its 49th volume.

In the present volume Suzuki has gathered four works from 1728-29, with the texts all written by the poet Christian Friedrich Henrici – a regular collaborator with Bach, most famously on the St Matthew Passion and the Christmas Oratorio

The four works gathered here hint at the variety that may have characterized the Bach-Picander cantata year, with moods spanning from the jubilation of the New Year Cantata BWV171 to the anticipation of Jesus’ path of suffering in Sehet, wir gehn hinauf gen Jerusalem, BWV159, intended for the Sunday before Passiontide. There is also variety on a more technical level, with BWV188 and BWV156 both beginning with instrumental sinfonias featuring important solo parts for organ and oboe respectively.

The latest volumes from the cantatas series have been met with considerable critical acclaim. With Volume 46 being made a ‘Critics’ Choice’ in Gramophone, and BBC Music Magazine singling out both Volume 47 and 48 as ‘Choral & Song Choice of the Month’.

“I can't imagine more beautifully long-breathed phrasing than oboist Masamitsu San-nomiya's. But eclipsing all else is the aria that follows, its tenor weaving Bach's logical counterpoint into unison strings and bass...all bathed in the ethereal acoustic of the Kobe Shoin Chapel. I would buy the disc for this alone.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2011 *****

“Most beguiling is Ich steh mit einem Fuss in Grabe...The opening oboe sinfonia...floats effortlessly into a delectable tenor aria - a preparation for death whose wrong-footed ritornello, shimmering cantus firmus and chiselled harmonic wonders play into Gerd Turk's experienced hands...[in' Es ist vollbracht'] Peter Kooij summons true nobility of utterance in this most finite of elegies” Gramophone Magazine, December 2011

“This is yet another high-quality instalment in Suzuki's complete Bach cantatas project, his readings highly polished as usual and seeking devotional depth rather than brilliance for its own sake.” International Record Review, November 2011

“Performances are maybe cool but very committed, and one track has a hypnotic allure: Gerd Türk's tenor aria "Herr, so weit die Wolken gehen" from BWV 171, with two perfectly duetting violins.” The Observer, 16th October 2011

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Bach - Cantatas Volume 48

Bach - Cantatas Volume 48


Bach, J S:

Cantata BWV34 'O ewiges Feuer, O Ursprung der Liebe'

Cantata BWV117 'Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut'

Cantata BWV98 'Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan'

Cantata BWV120 'Gott man lobet dich in Stille'


Hana Blažíková (soprano), Robin Blaze (counter-tenor), Satoshi Mizukoshi (tenor) & Peter Kooij (bass)

Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki

‘With Suzuki you can hear Bach's heart beat...’ (International Record Review

Volume 48 of Masaaki Suzuki’s and Bach Collegium Japan’s traversal of Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantatas opens with Cantata 34, O ewiges Feuer, o Ursprung der Liebe – a jubilant work intended for Whit Sunday 1727, but with its origins in an earlier, secular wedding cantata.

Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille (BWV 120) was composed for a festive church service marking the annual town council election in Leipzig. But the programme also also offers moments of introspection and quiet beauty, such as the celebrated alto aria Ich will dich all mein Leben lang from Cantata 117, here performed by the counter-tenor Robin Blaze, well-known to the followers of this series.

Cantata 98 contains another heartfelt aria: Hört, ihr Augen, auf zu weinen, sung by the soprano Hana Blažíková, whose performances on recent releases have impressed many reviewers.

With approximately another eight volumes remaining of this great undertaking, the energy and dedication of Masaaki Suzuki and his musicians show no signs of flagging, and the recent volumes 46 and 47 were warmly welcomed by reviewers around the world, receiving distinctions such as ‘Critics’ Choice’ in Gramophone and ‘Choral Choice of the Month’ in BBC Music Magazine.

“striking testimony to fine SACD engineering as well as the performers: this clarity and springiness is a vital component...the opening of BWV120, a tight-rope of alto demi-semi-quavers on which Blaze balances with remarkable security and poise [is] quite the best I've heard on disc...This is without question an outstanding contribution to Suzuki's complete cantata project” BBC Music Magazine, July 2011 *****

“Robin Blaze is at his most ringing, mellifluous and assuaging here...Suzuki's strength lies in summoning up a world from the text and a sense of believing it...["Heil und Segen"] is sung exquisitely by Hana Blazikova and caps another consistently fine performance in the late autumn of Suzuki's steadily impressive marathon.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2011

“[this disc] demonstrates the ever-rising standard, by now quite stratospheric, of Suzuki and his choir and orchestra in this massive recording project.” International Record Review, July/August 2011

BBC Music Magazine

Choral & Song Choice - July 2011

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Bach - Cantatas Volume 47

Bach - Cantatas Volume 47


Bach, J S:

Cantata BWV36 'Schwingt freudig euch empor'

Cantata BWV47 'Wer sich selbst erhöhet, der soll erniedriget werden'

Cantata BWV27 'Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende?'

Cantata BWV27 'Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende?': Willkommen! will ich sagen (alternative version for organ)


Hana Blažíková (soprano), Robin Blaze (counter-tenor), Satoshi Mizukoshi (tenor), Peter Kooij (bass)

Bach Collegium Japan, Masaaki Suzuki

As always the opening choruses are of particular interest, for instance that of Cantata BWV47, a striking example of Bach’s skills in illustrating a text in music but also a highly complex composition in which the interplay between choir and orchestra is beautifully balanced. The soloists also have their share of fine moments on this instalment. Hana Blažíková, dubbed ‘an ideal Bach soprano’ in International Record Review on account of her performance on the previous Cantata volume, performs the charming and playful aria ‘Auch mit gedämpften, schwachen Stimmen’ with solo violin, while Robin Blaze and Peter Kooij – both veterans of this series – each have received a true display piece in the form of the two arias of BWV27.

‘With Suzuki you can hear Bach's heart beat...’ (International Record Review on Volume 40, BIS-SACD-1671).

“Suzuki's [Bach series] was initially rather restrained and reverential. No longer...the generous acoustic of the Chapel, reverberating for nearly four seconds, doesn't dull the crisp articulation...another superb contribution to Suzuki's Bach project.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2011 *****

“Robin Blaze's sprightly and generous singing leaves us relishing the prospect of our passing...we are treated [in BWV47] to more of Hana Blažíkova, a Bach soprano of engaging disposition.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2011

“Suzuki achieves that rarest of balancing acts in Bach: a sense of spiritual gravitas, but lightness of touch; the delight in complexity, but absolute transparency of texture; rhetorical awareness of the text, but musical plain speaking. The solo team here is one of the best line-ups we've had for a while.” International Record Review, January 2011

“the performances here do not disappoint. There's particularly crisp, clear choral singing in the contrapuntal opening chorus of Wer sich selbst erhöhet...The delicate solo violin playing and warm oboe d'amore obbligato deserve high praise and the balance of lyricism and rhythmic drive is well judged throughout.” Classic FM Magazine, April 2011 *****

“this 47th volume of his Bach Cantata Cycle is as good as any of its predecessors. There are plenty of surprises here too; in fact Suzuki and Bach make a good team. They are both endlessly inventive musicians, but each has a real sensitivity to the necessary balance between continuity and innovation in liturgical music.” MusicWeb International, January 2011

BBC Music Magazine

Choral & Song Choice - January 2011

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