J. S. Bach – Violin and Voice – Hilary Hahn, Matthias Goerne & Christine Schäfer

0 of 5 stars

St Matthew Passion, BWV244 – Aria (bass): Gebt mir meinen Jesum wieder; Aria (soprano): Erbarme dich
Cantata Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV140 – Duet: Wann kommst du, mein Heil?
Cantata Ich bin in mir vergnügt, BWV204 – Aria (soprano): Die Schätzbarkeit der weiten Erden
Cantata Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen Cantata, BWV32 – Aria (bass): Hier, in meines Vaters Stätte
Cantata Zerreißet, zersprenget, zertrümmert die Gruft, BWV 205 (Der zufriedengestelite Äolus, dramma per musica) – Aria (soprano): Angenehmer Zephyrus
Mass in B minor, BWV232 – Aria (soprano): Laudamus te
Cantata Ich lasse dich nicht, BWV157 – Aria (bass): Ja, ja, ich halte Jesum feste
Cantata Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten, BWV59 – Aria (bass): Die Welt mit allen Königreichen
Cantata Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid, BWV58 – Aria (soprano): Ich bin vergnügt in meinem Leiden
Cantata Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut, BWV117 – Aria (bass): Wenn Trost und Hülf ermangeln muss
Cantata Der Friede sei mit dir, BWV158 – Aria (bass) & Chorale (soprano): Welt, ade, ich bin dein müde

Hilary Hahn (violin), Christine Schäfer (soprano) & Matthias Goerne (baritone)

Münchener Kammerorchester
Alexander Liebreich

Recorded December 2008 & April 2009 at Himmelfahrtskirche, München-Sendling

Reviewed by: Melanie Eskenazi

Reviewed: March 2010
CD No: DG 477 8092
Duration: 57 minutes



What could be more sublime than a recording of Bach arias with Violino Obbligato? It’s the kind of inspired combination which makes you wonder why the catalogue isn’t stuffed with rival versions – that is, until you listen to it. There is nothing much wrong with the singing, and the playing is uniformly transcendent, but the overall concept tends towards an album which you only want to re-visit in small chunks rather than finding enjoyment in the whole.

I yield to no one in my admiration for Matthias Goerne, but his singing of ‘Gebt mir meinen Jesum wieder’ from “St Matthew Passion” is curiously lacking in drive and muscularity, with an attack that could not be further from his accustomed directness in its smooth cultivation. ‘Too much beauty’ is not something about which I often complain, but here the impression is all silky tone and dancing obbligato, when what I seek in this aria is a sense of anxiety and heartfelt pleading. Goerne fares better in ‘Ja, Ja, Ich halte Jesum feste’ and ‘Welt, ade, ich bin dein müde’ – the former displaying his golden tone to perfection and the latter benefiting from the world-weary tone he brings to the phrases.

Christine Schäfer negotiates the florid lines of the ‘Laudamus te’ (“Mass in B minor”) with her customary style, but as with Goerne much of her singing seems muted and characterised by a seeming desire to sound as instrumental as possible; perhaps this was inevitable given the prominence of Hilary Hahn’s violin. Mendelssohn’s transposition for soprano of ‘Erbarme dich’ finds Schäfer at her most sympathetic, although it takes a few hearings before one gets used to the lighter than usual tone in this music.

Hilary Hahn’s violin, a Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume with the characteristic warm, expansive and sonorous timbre typical of that maker, weaves its way mesmerizingly around the obbligati, as serenely as you would expect. Hahn has said that no matter how many times she plays this music, she is always surprised to find in it new intricacies and new touches of beauty, and her playing often does convey this sense of enthusiasm and delight. The Munich Chamber Orchestra provides eloquent support, and the recording quality lends a pearly sheen to the voice and the solo violin.

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