Violin and Voice: Mojca Erdmann, Matthias Goerne & Hilary Hahn at the Barbican Hall

C. P. E. Bach
Sinfonia in G, Wq182/1
J. S. Bach
Cantata, BWV59 – Aria: Die Welt mit allen Königreichen
Cantata, BWV204 – Aria: Die Schätzbarkeit der weiten Erden
Cantata, BWV157 – Aria: Ja, ja, ich halte Jesum feste
C. P. E. Bach
Sinfonia in A, Wq182/4 – Allegro assai
J. S. Bach
Cantata, BWV205 – Aria: Angenehmer Zephyrus
Cantata, BWV32 – Aria: Hier in meines Vaters Stätte
St Matthew Passion, BWV244 – Aria: Erbarme dich [arr. Mendelssohn]
Suite in B minor, BWV1067 – Ouverture
Cantata, BWV117 – Aria: Wenn Trost und Hülf ermangeln muss
Mass in B minor, BWV232 – Aria: Laudamus te
Cantata, BWV140 – Duet: Wann kommst du, mein Heil?
Cantata, BWV58 – Aria: Ich bin vergnügt in meinem Leiden
St Matthew Passion, BWV244 – Aria: Gebt mir meinen Jesum wieder!
Suite in D, BWV1068 – Air
Cantata, BWV158 – Duet: Welt, ade, ich bin dein müde

Mojca Erdmann (soprano), Matthias Goerne (baritone) & Hilary Hahn (violin)

Munich Chamber Orchestra
Alexander Liebreich

Reviewed by: Melanie Eskenazi

Reviewed: 23 March, 2010
Venue: Barbican Hall, London

Hilary Hahn.  Photograph: Kasskara/DGFantastic! – it’s not often that you see a singer direct such praise at a colleague, but Matthias Goerne just could not stop himself from saying it to Hilary Hahn at the end of the bass aria ‘Hier in meines Vaters Stätte’ from the Cantata 32 – and rightly so, since her playing of the obbligato part was breathtaking in its virtuosity as well as its tenderness. Both these qualities are inherent in Goerne’s singing, too, and his superbly floated final “heisst” in this aria was just as fantastic.

This concert was part of a European tour marking the release of the album “Bach: Violin and Voice” in which Hahn and Goerne are joined by Christine Schäfer in a programme of arias and duets: on this evening the soprano was ill, and her place was taken by Mojca Erdmann. It’s a measure of the excellence of Alexander Liebreich’s direction of the Munich Chamber Orchestra that this change was effected seamlessly, with the soprano’s first aria the only weak spot in that some of the very demanding high notes were a little on the shrill side.

Erdmann went on to give a superb account of Mendelssohn’s arrangement of ‘Erbarme dich’, her plaintive tones accompanied with wonderful sensitivity by the outstanding continuo ensemble. Indeed, that ensemble was one of the joys of this evening: I have seldom heard such eloquent, vibrant playing as Rosario Conte’s theorbo, Kristin von der Goltz’s cello and Onur Özkaya’s double bass. The orchestra covered itself in glory.

Alexander Liebreigh, Photograph: Marek VogelIt’s clever to pair Goerne and Hahn in this music, since the violinist’s cantabile quality is as remarkable as the baritone’s instrumental fluency; I was not overwhelmed by the recording since it seemed rather bland in parts, but on this showing of the ‘live’ interpretations, future collaborations should prove remarkable. The great bass aria ‘Gebt mir meinen Jesum wieder!’ from “St Matthew Passion” is a case in point; on the recording this is a textbook example of beautiful singing and virtuoso playing, but that is all – which of course is a great deal, but here we heard so much more in a performance of such anguished ferocity, muscular drama and forthright expressiveness that I wanted to stand up and cheer – in fact, some people did.

This is what Bach singing should sound like, and we were treated to more of it in the duet ‘Welt, ade’ (Cantata 158), the mesmerizing violin line winding itself amongst the ethereal soprano and warmly consoling bass lines. Perhaps the last word should go to the violin – you could almost see heads spinning after Hahn’s playing of the trills in ‘Angenehmer Zephyrus’ (Cantata 205) – fantastic, indeed.

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