Monday, February 21, 2011

REVIEW: Masaaki Suzuki and Bach Collegium Japan


City Hall Concert Hall, Sunday February 20

The consistently clean and restrained approach of Masaaki Suzuki gave their performance an honest and meditative quality.

It is difficult to not know Masaaki Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan as their recordings (47 volumes on Bach alone) are frequently featured in classical music magazines. This is my first time though to hear them perform live. Opening the concert was Bach’s Alles nur nach Gottes Willen, BWV72. While the orchestra had an immediate cohesiveness, it took a while before my ears got used to the choir. Whether the choir sounded thin or small, the uncertainty quickly faded away.

In Sehet, wir gehn hinauf gen Jerusalem, BWV159, all the four soloists sang. The one that stood out for me was the English countertenor Robin Blaze. I saw his Royal Opera House debut back in 2003 in Handel's Semele as Athamas. My impression of his voice was that it was a bit small, but it had a rich and mellow tone to it. In this performance, that same rich and mellow tone was there but this time, his voice has no problem floating above the orchestra.

In contrast, I had difficulty hearing Czech soprano Hana Blazíková clearly; and this is most apparent in Alles mit Gott und nichts ohn'ihn, BWV1127 wherein the score features a soprano line with mainly continuo accompaniment. When heard though, the voice revealed an exquisite and clean tone.

The highlight of the evening came in the form of Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV147. All instrumentalists and singers gave an inspired performance that slowly crept into the contemplative core of this listener. By the time the music ended, applause just seemed unnatural.


_____
Masaaki Suzuki and Bach Collegium Japan

J S Bach Cantatas
Alles nur nach Gottes Willen, BWV72
Sehet, wir gehn hinauf gen Jerusalem, BWV159
Alles mit Gott und nichts ohn'ihn, BWV1127
Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV147


Soprano:
Hana Blažíková
Countertenor:
Robin Blaze
Tenor: Gerd Türk
Bass: Peter Kooij
Conductor: Masaaki Suzuki

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